SATURATION POINT: George, the Wal-Mart/ASDA fashion collection that plans to open two freestanding units in Britain next month, could change the discount retail landscape should the stores be rolled out nationwide. TNS, a British provider of market information, said New Look and Matalan stores would be most at risk, followed by Primark and TK Maxx stores. “The recent explosion of retail discounters has led to stiff competition between operators and there are signs to suggest that the discount retail market is now becoming saturated,” according to James Hobbs, business group director at TNS’ Fashion Trak division. As reported, George is readying a 12,000-square-foot store in Leeds and an 8,000-square-foot space in Croydon, a distant London suburb, as a one-year test. The retailer — which ranks second in apparel sales in Britain — increased its market share of the total U.K. clothing market to 3.1 percent from 2.6 percent in the two years to June 2003. The most significant growth was seen in women’s wear.

Ellen Burney



NORTHERN SPIRIT: The Danish clothing industry is seeing a rebound in exports amid a pickup in northern European markets, the Danish Textile Association said last week at its annual Copenhagen International Fashion Fair. Sales by the Danish industry to its two largest export markets, Sweden and Germany, rose by 15 percent in the first five months of the year, and total exports are expected to reach record levels of more than $2.21 billion, or 14.4 billion Danish krona, this year, the association said. Continued growth is forecast for next year, too, with exports seen exceeding $2.3 billion, or 15 billion krona. Danish clothing companies export more than 80 percent of their output. The industry attributes the rise in export sales to a tentative upturn in the global economy and growing interest in casualwear, traditionally a mainstay for Nordic producers. The Copenhagen Fair, now the largest in Scandinavia, according to its organizers, attracted close to 800 exhibitors with a total of 2,900 collections this year.

Poul Larsen



WATCH WEARY: The watch market had a tough first half, hit by SARS and the war in Iraq. The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry reported watch exports were down 6.6 percent to $3.38 billion in the six months ended June 30. Dollar figures have been converted from the Swiss franc at current exchange. In units, exports slipped 11 percent to 14 million watches. By geographic region, the value of watch exports to China raced up by 141.4 percent. It also increased by 33.9 percent to Russia, 10.3 percent to the U.K., 3.8 percent to Thailand and 1.2 percent to the U.S. But the exports in value terms fell in several key markets in the half: Saudi Arabia was down 22.6 percent, Italy and Germany both down 15.7 percent and Singapore down 14.4 percent.Emilie Marsh



HOLE IN ONE: London’s Knightsbridge area might well brace for more traffic pileups: Krispy Kreme hits the Harrods food hall in October, to be announced with a flashing “Hot Doughnuts Now” sign. “Harrods is delighted to be the first retailer in Europe to offer its customers the Krispy Kreme experience,” Peter Willasey, the store’s corporate communications director, said. “The level of excitement the announcement has already generated around London suggests that the partnership of these two brands will be a huge success.” Krispy Kreme will even get its own designated entrance, open from 7 a.m. to catch the morning coffee crowd (Harrods generally opens at 10 a.m.). This will be the first of 25 stores that Krispy Kreme plans to open over a five-year period in the U.K and Northern Ireland. The company currently has more than 300 retail locations in 41 U.S. states, Canada and Australia.

E.B.



SLOW GO: Citing restructuring costs and unfavorable currency exchange rates, the French fast-fashion group, Etam, reported second-quarter sales declined 5.3 percent to $286.4 million, or 253.4 million euros converted at current exchange, from $302.5 million, or 267.7 million euros, in the year-earlier period. For the half, sales were down 4 percent to $574.9 million from $599.2 million a year ago. On a like-for-like basis, however, sales increased 1.45 percent. Etam recently discontinued its 123 lingerie line and sold its WMK chain. With 1,468 stores, Etam group operates the Etam, 123 and Tammy chains.

Robert Murphy



ROCCA ON: Cinzia Rocca might not be an instantly recognizable brand, but the Rocca family is working to change that. The 37-year-old designer behind the eponymous label will make her first U.S. retail appearance in early October, meeting clients at Saks Fifth Avenue stores in New York, Boston and Chicago to help with fittings and detailing, including monograms. “My sister doesn’t like to appear in public,” said ceo Jacopo Rocca. “She’s discreet and used to working behind the scenes. This is a kind of alternative way to get the brand recognized.”Cinzia Rocca, which makes tailored coats in fabrics including alpaca wool and cashmere, has been present in the U.S. since 1988. Currently, it sells at Saks, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom and Marshall Field’s, as well as 200 specialty stores. Prices range from about $600 to $2,000.

Rodel, the family-run company based in the northern Italian town of Dello, owns the Cinzia Rocca label. This year, it celebrates its 50th anniversary and expects to post sales of $45.9 million, up about 8 percent from last year. Sales in the U.S. account for about 30 percent of the total and are currently up about 25 percent on the year, according to company estimates.

Amanda Kaiser

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