Footwear retailer plans 450-store offensive
Clarks is planning a massive international roll-out to stave off sliding UK sales and help it hit steep profit targets.

The footwear company is understood to be planning to open more than 450 shops overseas within the next decade. The roll-out will mean that Clarks will have as many shops on the Continent as it operates in the UK.

The initial focus is likely to be in Europe, where Clarks has begun promoting its franchises heavily to potential partners. It is also set to ramp up a retail roll-out in the US, where it has 210 stores.

Clarks is believed to have accelerated its international plans in recent weeks, after UK sales dipped double digits below target.

Clarks has come under increasing pressure from shareholders amid falling sales and profits and, at the end of last year, it controversially brought its international and UK divisions under one umbrella.

A source close to the company said: 'There is no way Clarks can make up its sales shortfall in the UK, given the current climate. Women's sales have dropped back and business is not just being affected by the weather. Management know they have

to do something and this is their solution.'

However, he pointed out that children's footwear had overtaken women's footwear to become Clarks' biggest division and warned, 'Kids wear sneakers to school in Europe, so Clarks will be without its biggest driver - back to school. It's not going to be easy to replicate success overseas without those sales.'

Clarks declined to comment.