Fast-growing Russian mass merchant Magnit will be carrying an American asset as it continues its expansion push.

This story first appeared in the March 21, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The Krasnodar-based retailer, which exceeded $11.5 billion in sales in 2011, its 18th year in business, has launched Cherokee apparel for men, women and kids in select units among its fleet of more than 5,000 convenience stores and 93 hypermarkets. The arrival of Cherokee merchandise, undertaken with a marketing campaign including in-store promotion and print, television and other advertising, comes about nine months after Cherokee signed a licensing agreement giving Magnit exclusive rights to the brand name in Russia, according to Henry Stupp, chief executive officer of Cherokee Inc.

“We sell in roughly 40 countries and that will grow this year,” Stupp told WWD. “We’ve got good intelligence about Central Europe now, which helped as we stepped into Russia.”

Cherokee’s direct-to-retail license for Central Europe is held by Tesco, which also has the rights to the name in the U.K. and Ireland, and the brand has other Cherokee licenses with Target in the U.S., Zellers in Canada, RT-Mart in China and Nishimatsuya in Japan, among others. Its portfolio also includes Sideout, Carole Little and A. Smile, and it represents Laila Ali for her licensing activities. The Russian arrangement was negotiated by Miroslava Skibinska, who continues to oversee the relationship as regional director for Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa.

Svetlana Mirgorodskaya, purchasing director for the non-food portion of Magnit, said, “As part of our 2012 plan to invest in our current stores and open new stores throughout the country, we feel strongly that the Cherokee brand will support Magnit in our growth strategy and mission to deliver our customers high-quality apparel and accessories at reasonable prices.”

Stupp noted that the partnership with Magnit required substantial resources from Cherokee, making use of many of the elements of the “360-degree approach” that the firm has emphasized since he joined as ceo in August 2010. “Magnit is primarily a food retailer and we’ve been highly involved in every aspect of this introduction, which has given us an opportunity to utilize many of the abilities that we’ve been adding in the past year or so,” he said. “We arranged for fixtures and signage, worked with them on floor plans, standardized sizing and ticketing. We’ve been pushing for this kind of global consistency and we’re making good progress. You’ll see roughly the same presentation at Comercial Mexicana in Mexico as you will at Target, Tesco or now Magnit.”

He said that the company is open to growth other than that achieved through additional licensees in new markets. “Our balance sheet is in good shape,” he said, “and we’re in a strong position to add arrows to our quiver and acquire new brands.”

Cherokee, which expects to report fourth-quarter results next month, remains intent on elevating its level of customer service as it becomes increasingly global. “Bilingualism isn’t biculturalism,” Stupp said.

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