Fortnum & Mason plans global food halls empire

World-famous UK retailer Fortnum & Mason is plotting an overseas offensive and has struck a deal with Japanese department store Mitsukoshi to open shop-in-shops.

Fortnum & Mason, whose Piccadilly flagship is a big tourist draw, aims to replicate its own-brand food hall in a string of overseas markets, Japan first and then the US and other anglophone countries.

'Japan is our largest export market, so it makes sense to launch the first phase of a new international strategy there,' said Fortnum's finance director Les Collins. 'This is a major investment and development for us as a brand.

The initial focus will be Japan, but we will then look at other large markets.'

Fortnum & Mason, which is part of the Weston family's empire, previously relied on wholesale distribution, but has switched to the new retail model to better protect the brand integrity overseas.

It has formed Fortnum & Mason Japan (FMJ) with Mitsukoshi, and responsibility for day-to-day operations has been handed to a third party.

The first shop will anchor the new food hall in Mitsukoshi's 1 million sq ft (92,900 sq m) Tokyo flagship, which opens in October. It will incorporate a tea room and carry up to 250 of Fortnum's mainstay of luxury teas, preserves and groceries. A second shop will open in the Nagoya branch next spring.

Mitsukoshi has 100 stores, but the arrangement is not exclusive, and branded shops could open in other compatible stores.

Retail Knowledge Bank director Robert Clark. 'The Japanese like upmarket international brands and although they might find it expensive, that's not necessarily a bar to a successful stab at the market.'