Operating some 61 franchise stores in 23 markets, with 15 partners and in markets that include Iceland, Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Cyprus and Malta in Europe, and the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Dubai in the Middle East, Debenhams has set the standard for those brands seeking to achieve a successful international expansion strategy.
But it doesn’t stop there; the company has no intention of sitting on its laurels and has an impressive agenda for growth. “We have begun to dip our toe in the North African market,” explains International Director Francis McAuley, “with an opening at the City Centre Mall in Alexandria, Egypt earlier this year, and we are looking at another location at Festival City Cairo for an opening in 2012.”
In Asia, Debenhams has consolidated its Indian operation and is experiencing some success in Delhi: “Of course, we will be looking to replicate that success in other cities,” he says. “There will be new openings in India very soon.”
The brand also has stores in the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam.
There has also been a great deal of activity in the less mature markets, with Debenhams taking a leading role in targeting Eastern European countries, such as Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Armenia. In Astana, Kazakhstan, it has opened a new store in the iconic Norman Foster-designed Khan Shatyr shopping mall and at the Park Boulevard Mall in Baku, Azerbaijan, whilst also opening its third store in Iran, in the holy city of Mashhad.
“This store has performed extremely well and we are very pleased with our partner’s success in Iran,” says McAuley. “These new markets have been very rewarding and we are seeing some solid sales coming out of them, partly because they are not that high profile and competition levels are reasonably low, whilst customer sophistication, expectation and wealth are high.”
What then was the attraction of these markets, which may be perceived by some as something of a gamble?
“We have been seeking out new markets that other retailers perhaps hadn’t looked at,” explains McAuley. “We also looked very closely at where the growth of our franchise business had come from – it was the Middle East. The thing that drove that region was its oil wealth; the natural assumption therefore is that we should be looking at other countries whose driver for wealth is oil.”
For the full article, please see the October 2010 issue.