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DUBAICharming Charlie, an accessories concept that was begun 11 years ago by a real estate investor who needed to fill space in his own Houston strip malls, is looking to expand in international markets, beginning with Dubai.

This week, the firm opened its first two locations outside of North America in the emirate.

Founder and chief executive officer Charlie Chanaratsopon has more than 350 stores throughout North America and plans to increase that number to 850 within the next seven to eight years. He plans to move at an equal pace internationally, replicating his formula of merchandising an assortment of affordably priced jewelry, handbags, footwear and apparel by color.

The company plans to open 50 to 75 stores in the Middle East in the next five years in a joint venture agreement with UAE-based Apparel Group.

“Dubai is a our first overseas market because it’s a global city. It is the quintessential shopping destination, so it’s the ideal place for visibility and to begin global growth. Tourist traffic in Dubai is more than top shopping malls in the U.S.,” he told WWD.

The Middle East outposts of Charming Charlie carry the brand’s signature look and feel, with pink lacquer double doors and a residential-style interior that mixes feminine, midcentury accents with luxury materials and whimsical details.

Chanaratsopon said he may adjust the buy slightly to fit with local cultural norms, but he expects that it won’t change much for the region. “The opportunity here for accessories is strong. We have high comfort that we will do well in this area. The region loves color, and our stores offer that in a unique way,” he said.

Dubai-based Apparel Group has agreements to operate Charming Charlie stores in Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia, along with the UAE. “There is strong demand across the Middle East for Charming Charlie’s effortless style, incredible value and fun shopping experience,” said Nilesh Ved, chairman of Apparel Group.

Chanaratsopon next has his eyes set on Asia, with agreements already in place to open stores in the Philippines. He said he will be traveling to his native Thailand soon to assess opportunities there. “We will be very active in the next few years,” he said.

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