Retailer gears up for international push and sets its sights on six new markets
New Look pushed the button for international expansion this week, after the collapse of the£1.8 billion auction of the business.

The fashion retailer has identified six new markets that could help it deliver explosive growth over the next five years.

Managing director for marketing, operations and international Carl McPhail confirmed that the roll-out will cover two more countries in Western Europe, as well as a push into emerging markets. The retailer has a presence in France, Belgium and the Middle East already.

As Retail Week went to press, New Look's directors were locked in a meeting to finalise plans, following the completion of an international strategy review by Ernst & Young.

McPhail is also in talks with five potential franchise partners in other locations and New Look is in a position to act quickly as soon as terms are agreed.

New Look had hoped that its international growth story would entice bidders to stump up as much as£2 billion to buy the chain, which was put up for sale in March. However, the auction collapsed earlier this week when New Look's private equity owners Apax and Permira were unable to agree a price with bidders. The failed sale came amid concerns about UK consumer confidence and the US debt market.

Management are now mulling whether to pursue a refinancing but the status quo may be maintained, according to a source close to the retailer.

New Look is likely to target the Benelux region as part of its European roll-out, given its close proximity to Belgium and France, where it has 11 eponymous stores. The retailer also has 242 Mim shops in France.

McPhail declined to reveal locations. However, he said: 'In Europe we will leverage the platform we have already got for France and Belgium, where our stores are profit-positive within 15 to 18 months. But the European roll-out will not negate our plans for emerging markets.'

New Look is expected to pursue a franchise model in emerging markets. Its target list is likely to include China and India, where New Look founder Tom Singh has extensive connections.

The Middle East also remains a key focus for expansion. The retailer signed a five-year franchise agreement with Landmark earlier this year and has plans to open 40 stores there.

New Look has the potential to ultimately replicate the global scale of rivals H&M and Inditex, which have 1,345 and 3,245 stores worldwide respectively.

Separately, New Look has finalised an autumn launch for its transactional web site. Strategy director Shaun Wills said that his aim was for web sales to match sales at its Oxford Street flagship in the first year.

He added: 'Verdict is forecasting internet sales will hit 9 per cent of retail turnover over the next six years. We don't expect that, but half that would be very serious numbers for us.'

The site will launch with a limited number of styles, but all stock - including menswear and childrenswear - will be online by the end of the second quarter.

E-In Business will be New Look's platform provider.