Renowned French entertainment and electricals retailer Fnac has embarked on a search for its first UK store, in a move that will send shockwaves through the market.
A team from Fnac, owned by luxury group PPR, was in this country last week searching central London for potential sites of about 50,000 sq ft.
Fnac operates a unique model of large-footprint stores selling a full range of entertainment and electricals products. In the UK, it would compete head on with retailers such as HMV, Waterstone’s, Zavvi, Game, DSGi and WHSmith.
Fnac is understood to be working with property agency Harper Dennis Hobbs (HDH), which has been responsible for bringing several overseas retailers to the UK.
The retailer may take some time to secure a central London site because of Fnac’s store size requirements. Its search is focusing on central London for the time being.
Fnac, which has 131 stores worldwide, is widely recognised as a pioneer in testing new products and developing relationships with manufacturers, and its arrival in the UK has been long awaited. Its Fnac Eveil&Jeux subsidiary offers a selection of products for children and its Surcouf subsidiary sells electronics.
The beleaguered books, music and electricals sectors have suffered in the UK as competition from e-tailers and supermarkets has forced several players out of business, but elsewhere in Europe the sectors are still performing well.
One European retail expert said Fnac is highly successful in the markets in which it operates, but it should be careful about entering the UK.
“Fnac is a very Latin concept and appeals culturally to the characteristics of the French or Spanish and Italians,” he said. “In the 1990s, Fnac entered the German market. The concept didn’t work and it had to retreat.”
Sales at PPR were 19.8 billion (£15.15 billion) last year, up 7 per cent on a comparable basis. Fnac performed particularly well, with revenues up 7.4 per cent.
In January, Fnac promoted Thierry Guibert to the new post of executive vice-president international and development, to look after all markets outside France.
A Fnac spokeswoman confirmed it worked with HDH, but said it had no concrete plans to come to the UK as yet. HDH was unavailable for comment.