NEW YORK — Lord & Taylor is joining the growing ranks of U.S. retailers looking to international expansion even as it seeks to beef up existing stores with better merchandising and renovations.

In addition, the chain plans to convert 100,000 square feet in its Fifth Avenue flagship for home furnishings.

“We basically are very committed to growth within the existing stores we have, but there is an opportunity in Asia and other markets in North America for Lord & Taylor to have stores” focused on American designers, Richard Baker, chairman of Lord & Taylor, said Tuesday.

He spoke at the Keeping/Gaining Market Share seminar at the Princeton Club, organized by Emanuel Weintraub Associates, the New Jersey-based management consultants.

Baker, also president and chief executive of NRDC Equity Partners, which owns Lord & Taylor and Fortunoff, said he recently returned from trips to Canada and Mexico. There are “several groups” interested in bringing Lord & Taylor to locations outside the U.S., he said, but would not specify which groups or any timetable.

Baker said his company is considering different business models for international expansion, such as licensing.

Other retailers contemplating overseas expansion include Bloomingdale’s, where a deal in the Middle East could happen soon. Saks Fifth Avenue already has two stores in the Mideast, one in Mexico and plans to open in Shanghai.

Saks is also said to be considering Kazakhstan.

Lord & Taylor will also be pouring capital expenditures into renovating and reconfiguring its Fifth Avenue flagship, between 38th and 39th Streets. A major objective is to bring Fortunoff jewelry and home shops into the flagship, as well as branch locations.

At the flagship, Baker disclosed plans to create a 100,000-square-foot home department, which would encompass two floors. That would in effect, convert Lord & Taylor into a full-line department store, reminiscent of the former B. Altman store at Fifth Avenue and 34th Street, which operated a successful home furnishings business, as well as selling apparel.

Baker said that L&T would most likely create the first Fortunoff home shop at a suburban location, and test its viability. If the test proved successful, the 47-unit L&T would create 3,000- to 20,000-square-foot home departments at branch locations, depending on the square footage of the store.

With many Lord & Taylor sites considered overspaced, Baker said the home strategy would bolster the chain’s productivity and Fortunoff revenues.

In line with those objectives, L&T is also opening Fortunoff jewelry departments in its 47 stores next February, to replace the leased jewelry shops being vacated by Finlay Fine Jewelry.

For more on L&T and the seminar, see Wednesday’s issue of WWD.

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