By  on October 17, 2011

NEW YORK — Jack Wills, the British brand for men and women, has hired James Hardy as president of its North American operations to spearhead the company’s U.S. expansion.

Founder Peter Williams opened the first three Jack Wills stores in the U.S. last year in Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard and Boston, Mass. The stores have performed well and spurred openings in June in Southampton, N.Y.; Newport, R.I., and New Haven, and this summer and fall in Philadelphia, Charlottesville and Georgetown, Va., and Westport, Conn. The Northeast appears to be the current focus, with sites in Manhattan and Greenwich, Conn., being scouted. California is also a priority since it’s the biggest market on Jack Wills’ U.S. Web site.

Jack Wills operates 54 stores in the U.K., and recently signed an agreement with Alshaya to open stores in the Middle East next year, which will be the company’s first franchised locations.

Jack Wills on Oct. 3, opened its 11th store, a 7,000-square-foot unit at 1617 Walnut Street in Philadelphia. Like other Jack Wills shops, the two-story unit is designed to resemble an English country house and has a “Seasonnaire Lounge” where shoppers can relax, surf the Web, play games and watch videos. Seasonnaires, the company’s on-campus ambassadors at local colleges and universities, can earn $20,000 toward tuition. An autumn seasonnaires tour will stop at colleges along the Eastern seaboard.

Williams has said he plans to add eight to 10 stores to the 11 now operating.

Hardy, who began his career as an executive trainee at Brooks Brothers, held a variety of jobs at Polo Ralph Lauren, beginning in 1988 when he became vice president and managing director of Polo Ralph Lauren London. After a series of senior retail positions, Hardy rose to senior vice president and head of stores, Polo Retail in 2005. He joined Rugby Ralph Lauren in the same capacity in 2008.

“Jim brings a tremendous wealth of global experience to Jack Wills,” said Williams. “His leadership and knowledge of the U.S. specialty retail market will be strategically important to us as we continue our expansion in the U.S.”

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