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Claiborne to Close Mexx Retail in the U.K.

Liz Claiborne Inc. is shuttering Mexx retail in the U.K.

Liz Claiborne Inc. is shuttering Mexx retail in the U.K.

As part of its strategy “to divest of nonprofitable elements of its portfolio in order to focus its resources on more sustainable opportunities,” Claiborne will close its three Mexx U.K. doors — in Covent Garden and Oxford Street in London and one in Edinburgh — and its 58 shop-in-shops in John Lewis and House of Fraser by the end of July.

Mexx will continue its wholesale business in the U.K. and Ireland, with about 260 points of distribution predominantly in Ireland, based out of its Dublin office. Mexx’s 15 factory outlets in the U.K. also will remain open.

The closures affect about 300 employees in the U.K., whom Mexx will support through a redeployment and an enhanced retention program, according to Claiborne.

Of Claiborne’s four direct brands, the Amsterdam-based Mexx is the largest, but has struggled the most with profitability, with comps predicted to be down 2 percent in 2007. Bought in 2001, Mexx does about $1.2 billion in sales, approximately evenly divided between wholesale and retail, with 222 stores at the end of 2007. On July 11, Claiborne revealed a plan for Mexx that included reviewing penetrated versus underperforming markets and investing in the core markets to maximize retail business — all to help grow the operation to sales of $1.4 billion to $1.5 billion by 2010.

Interestingly, one year ago this week Claiborne said it would shutter Mexx’s remaining U.S. retail business, which was down to two New York and two Washington doors after seven other stores closed in 2006. Fellow Claiborne power brand Juicy Couture is taking over Mexx’s old space at 650 Fifth Avenue in New York.