French Connection steps up Russian connection

French Connection is poised to take on the Russian market, following the success of a franchise store in Moscow.

The retailer opened its first Russian shop in Moscow 18 months ago. Operations director Neil Williams said the business is now considering how to tackle further expansion.

'We opened the franchise store with two guys who run multi-brand stores. We are reviewing that structure and seeing whether we should get involved with a bigger partner,' said Williams. It is unlikely the retailer would open own-managed shops, and is considering either a joint venture or continuing along the franchising route.

The retailer will complete its review by July and plans to open more stores in Moscow before moving out to other cities. Williams has identified at least five suitable locations in Moscow. 'Then we need to establish where to go. There's an awful lot of demand for our type of product,' he said.

The emerging Russian retail market was worth US$94 billion (£53.05 billion) in 2002, and Moscow accounted for 28 per cent of that, according to research house GfK.

M+M Planet Retail analyst for central and eastern Europe Boris Planer said many Russian consumers would not be able to buy into high-end fashion brands - the average spend per person last year was US$1,500 (£847). However, he said the market is growing and it would be worth gaining a foothold.

Kingfisher and Wal-Mart are also considering opening stores in Russia.