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Joe Fresh Embarks on Global Push With South Korea Opening

The new 4,000-square-foot store in Seoul's heavily trafficked Myeongdong shopping district is the brand’s first unit in Asia.

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With Joe Fresh, what’s good for North America is good for the rest of the world.

This story first appeared in the June 5, 2014 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

That’s the message from the new 4,000-square-foot, two-level Joe Fresh store in the heavily trafficked Myeongdong shopping district in the heart of Seoul — the brand’s first unit in Asia. “There’s exactly the same assortment as you would see in SoHo [in Manhattan],” said Joe Mimran, president of Joseph Mimran & Associates and founder and creative director of Joe Fresh, on Wednesday. Mimran just returned from South Korea, where last weekend the company staged a fashion show at Seoul’s Beyond Museum and opened the store.

There was some tweaking involved, considering the size of the store, which is about 3,000 square feet smaller than typical Joe Fresh units, and considering the target population. “There is less space to do visual presentation, so it’s more about product, and there’s less visual concentration,” said Mario Grauso, chief operating officer of Joe Fresh. “We also broadened the size assortment so there is more extra-extra smalls than you would see in our other stores. Otherwise, it is really similar to SoHo.”

The Seoul opening marked an initial step in expanding Joe Fresh beyond its North American boundaries. Earlier this year, Joe Fresh announced three separate partnership agreements to swiftly enter the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and South Korea, representing a total of 24 countries.

Where Joe Fresh has situated in Seoul, said Grauso, has “a Fifth Avenue sensibility” and is a good fit for the Joe Fresh moderate price point. Fifty percent of the footfall is tourism from the Asian market, Grauso said, adding, “It’s very dense traffic and really important for us that we got into the neighborhood.”

Joe Fresh silks, shorts, maxis, midis and soft pants were getting “really good traction,” though Mimran added, “The good sellers here are the good sellers there, but it’s way too early to make any kinds of determinations and adjustments.”

Regarding the international expansion strategy, “We are being very aggressive about the rollout,” Grauso said. “We will open nine more stores in Korea this year and have a total of 35 stores in Korea in the next four years, which is what we contractually agreed to. Korea is very much a shopping hub for Asia. Korea became a priority for us.”

As reported, Joe Fresh’s South Korea partner is Origin & Co. Ltd., based in Seoul. It’s also partnered with Fawaz A. Alhokair & Co., based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and the Dubai-based Retail Arabia International. Loblaw Cos. Ltd. is the parent company of Joe Fresh, which operates freestanding stores in Canada and the U.S., as well as shops inside Loblaws and J.C. Penney.

Aside from the three agreements announced, “We are working on a few more deals that you could hear about in the coming weeks,” Grauso said.

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