With most UK retailers talking about multichannel at every opportunity, you can bet that terms like ‘e-tail’ and ‘click-and-collect’ will continue to be popular buzzwords in 2013.

And it’s pretty easy to see why, as this part of the business is likely to grow by leaps and bounds over the next 12 months. Online retail sales already exceeded expectations in December, with the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index recording 17.5% year-on-year growth in this area.

However, while it’s tempting to jump onto the e-commerce bandwagon with both feet, retailers also need to remember that there is still a whole big world of bricks-and-mortar out there.  You might argue that the internet has reduced the need to have a presence in every country but e-commerce still represents less than 4% of annual retail sales in countries like Italy, Poland and Spain, which shows how important it is to have a physical presence in certain markets.

Someone who seems to understand this concept very well is Anders Kristiansen, the new chief executive at New Look, whose previous experience includes an 18-month stint as vice-chief executive of Bestseller Fashion Group, the largest fashion retailer in China with more than 5,500 stores. Mr Kristiansen’s retail experience extends across Asia-Pacific and Europe and he reportedly speaks German, English, French, Danish and some Mandarin - which will undoubtedly come in handy as New Look continues to expand.

New Look launched its first international franchise store in the United Arab Emirates back in 2006, which was the same year that the company opened its first internationally owned stores in France and Belgium. By 2007, New Look had launched franchises in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and, by 2012, it celebrated the opening of its 100th International Partnership store, along with new franchises in Croatia, Serbia and Georgia.

New Look is obviously a company that understands the power of international partnerships and Mr Kristiansen’s appointment seems like a pretty clear signal of New Look’s intent to cement its position as a truly global operator. The company’s chairman, Alistair McGeorge, has said that in the next five years the retailer, which already has 210 stores outside the UK, will have a “very substantive” business in Russia, a “decent footprint” in China and a presence in India.

New Look seems to have a clear and structured international expansion strategy that could help the company to pay down its debts and maintain its UK growth at the same time.  For the 14 weeks to 29th December 2012, ex-VAT sales for the UK were up by 4.0% and online sales up more than 50% on last year.  So even though New Look may be exploring new horizons, the company clearly has both feet on the ground.

  • Dan Coen, director, Zolfo Cooper