By  on November 17, 2008

As part of a major push, Claire’s Stores Inc. has appointed Kenny Wilson, senior vice president of Levi Strauss & Co.’s commercial operations in Europe, as president, Europe.

Wilson takes his new post on Jan. 18 and will assume responsibility for merchandising and operations at more than 900 stores in 10 countries. He succeeds Mark Smith, who will remain with Claire’s in an advisory capacity focusing on global initiatives and key market development strategies.

Claire’s operates more than 3,000 stores in North America and Europe, in addition to subsidiary, joint venture and franchise relationships in other parts of the world. Wilson will report to Gene Kahn, chief executive officer of the Pembroke Pines, Fla.-based jewelry and accessories chain.

“We plan for the acceleration of the European division, to make Claire’s the dominant retailer of fashion accessories and costume jewelry in each of our key major markets,” Kahn said.

Claire’s European stores average 630 square feet, smaller than its North American footprint, and generate sales per square foot that are more than twice those in North America, the company said, noting that its plans for European expansion are more aggressive than those in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The company was taken private through its acquisition by Apollo Management last year, but its 2007 revenues were reported to be $1.48 billion. In September, Claire’s Stores said lower sales and almost $49 million in interest expense left it with a $14.1 million loss in the second quarter.

Wilson spent 18 years with Levi’s and was president of the Levi’s brand in Europe. He was credited with opening more than 250 Levi’s stores in Europe.

Smith, who was instrumental in Claire’s initial forays into Europe in the Nineties, rejoined the firm last year.

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