The pace of retailers’ entries into new international markets picked up a bit in the first quarter of 2013 while fashion and accessories’ share of the expansion weakened.

Accenture, in its third quarterly Retail Globalization Index, tracked 25 entries into new geographic markets during the three months ended April 15 among a global group of 489 retailers with at least $750 million in annual sales.

That figure is up from the 17 entries recorded during last year’s fourth quarter but down from the 43 registered when the first study came out following the third quarter.

Apparel retailers, which had been the dominant source of market entries in the previous two surveys, fell behind grocers in the most recent study. Fashion and accessories accounted for five of the 25 entries, or 20 percent. In the fourth quarter, they were responsible for 29.4 percent, or five of the 17 entries, and in the third quarter for 34.9 percent, or 15 of the 43. In the first quarter, grocers were responsible for 11 of the market entries, followed by the five in fashion and then department stores, other specialty stores and home garden/auto retailers with three each.

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Julian Allen, global retail research lead for Accenture and author of the study, pointed out that the drop in fashion expansion might be attributable to the tendency of fashion retailers to concentrate their openings in the latter part of the year to capitalize on the fall and holiday seasons.

“We don’t yet have years and years of data that would allow us to establish historical patterns,” he said. “Obviously, an apparel retailer would want to open when spending was strong in the category and seasonality isn’t nearly as important for grocery stores.

“In fact,” he continued, “the preliminary numbers we’re seeing for the second quarter indicate that fashion might be getting ready to accelerate again.”

Accenture, working in collaboration with Planet Retail, defines a market entry as expansion in one of five ways: the opening of a new retail format in a new country, the opening of a new country-specific Web site, the acquisition of a company in a target market, the creation of a joint venture in a target market or the launch of a franchise operation in a target country.

Company-owned stores accounted for 12 of the 25 entries in the first quarter, followed by franchises (seven), Web sites (three), M&A (two) and joint ventures (one). Among the apparel retailers, Allen noted, there were four company-owned stores and one franchise expansion among the five global expansions.

By contrast, the 11 grocery expansions included four company-owned stores, three franchises, three Web sites and one joint venture.

Except for Canada and Denmark, which were the target of two entries each, no country attracted more than one expansion move. There were just three expansions into South America — one each in Brazil, Colombia and Chile — and four in what is termed “emerging Asia” — one each in China, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Digging more deeply into the numbers, Chris Donnelly, global managing director of Accenture Retail noted two meaningful trends — “the growing appeal of smaller format stores and the increasing number of international moves by emerging market-based retailers.” The latter trend, he said, “suggests both a growing confidence among those retailers and, potentially, the early warning sings of saturation in some emerging markets.”

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