US department store retailer Lord & Taylor will look for opportunities outside the US once it has realigned its US store portfolio, said chairman Richard Baker at the World Retail Congress this morning.

He cited Asia as “potentially ideal” for an upscale store repositioning of the group, which he said is targeting a position between Nordstrom and Macy’s.

Baker, who is also president and CEO of NRDC Real Estate Advisors and NRDC Equity Partners, added: “Our feeling is that US department stores as a whole are too big and so we’re looking at ways of addressing that, including licensing space in our stores.

“We believe there is a tremendous opportunity to get more out of the box, but once we’re done with that we want to explore other markets. We feel the new model is ideal for Asia and Canada is very interesting too,” he said.

Matt Rubel, president and CEO of Collective Brands, reiterated the pressing demand for US retailers to look outside the States for growth. He said its main brand, Payless ShoeSource, was already the biggest footwear retailer in Central America and would open in Columbia soon.

Rubel stressed: “With the US market recessive we’re looking to redeploy capital into emerging markets and we are, for example, exploring franchises in the Middle East. In seven years, we would like domestic and international sales to be split 50/50 and I believe all US retailers seeking growth need to go beyond our region.”

Joe Gromek, president and CEO of Calvin Klein brand owner Warnaco, said he believes that its sales would shift to 60 per cent international within the next four to five years, with the UK, France, Spain and Italy all performing well. “There is life beyond US borders,” he said.

Despite tough American trading conditions, Christopher Lee, senior vice-president, Forever 21, said his company was bucking the trends. “Our comparable store sales are up 20 per cent and whether through acquisition or joint venture we want to move into big box retailing now,” he said.