Grocer Asda is to open its first George clothing stores overseas in an attempt to build George into a global business.

According to the Times, the retailer plans to open a small number of George stores in the Middle East by spring next year as part of a trial to test the feasibility of expanding the clothing range overseas through franchise partners.

Although George clothing is already sold overseas through Wal-Mart stores in the US, Asda wants to use franchising to take the range to markets where Wal-Mart does not trade.

“It gives us a point of learning about franchising; it’s new to us,” said Asda chief executive Andy Clarke.

A year ago Asda announced plans for a 150-strong chain of non-food standalone Asda Living stores within five years in the UK, but since then has only opened two, taking its total to 27.

The George brand was established in 1990 by fashion guru George Davies, initially as a joint venture between Davies and Asda. It has since become the fourth largest clothing seller in Britain behind Marks & Spencer, Next and Debenhams.

The two stores due to open in the Middle East will be operated by two yet-to-be-named franchise partners.