By  on May 20, 2008

MILAN — Benetton Group SpA has big plans for emerging markets.The Italian apparel retailer and manufacturer said it sees significant potential in India, China, the countries of the former Soviet Union, Turkey and Latin America. Benetton expects to reach sales of 300 million euros, or $438.4 million at current exchange rates, and a network of 1200 stores, compared with sales of 100 million euros, or $146.1 million, and 500 stores today. On Monday, executive vice president Alessandro Benetton said the company is evaluating joint ventures and sourcing deals in Central America. Benetton was presented Monday with Milan's prestigious Bocconi University fourth award "Entrepreneurs for Italy in the World" for his leadership, contribution to economic growth and social responsibility, among other criteria.A company spokesman said products manufactured in Central America would be "aimed at neighboring countries." Benetton's focus in this area is also underscored by the recent opening of new headquarters in Miami. A streamlined supply chain, which would help cut shipping costs and import duties, is as much a part of the reorganization of the group as the conversion of wholesale operations to retail in the U.S., where the company has taken control of about 50 wholesale distributors. The group currently counts 5,800 stores in 120 countries around the world.As reported, in the first quarter, Benetton registered net profits of 29 million euros, or $40.3 million, on sales of 465 million euros, or $646.3 million, in line with the full-year forecast. The company confirmed sales growth of between 6 and 8 percent is expected for 2008.

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