Staples, the office supplies retail giant, is to mount a massive UK expansion drive, bringing store numbers from 93 to 250 over the next few years.
Newly-appointed UK managing director Andy Randall, who will join Staples in July, will lead the charge - piling pressure on Office World and, to some extent, WHSmith and PC World.
At present, Randall is managing director of Virgin Retail, but decided to join Staples because of the retailer's ambitious objectives. He said: 'It's an exciting opportunity, with the business earmarked for rapid growth and expansion.'
Randall replaces Peter Ridler, who left Staples earlier this year and is now managing director of Body Shop in the UK and Ireland.
Retail Knowledge Bank research director Robert Clark said: 'I think Staples is likely to introduce the Staples Express format over here, which is smaller than their traditional 20,000 sq ft (1,860 sq m) stores and will allow them to in-fill and get numbers up quickly.'
Staples is also to have more autonomy in the UK and the business is being restructured in preparation for growth. Buying and merchandising units are to operate from within Britain, instead of from Staples' European base in Brussels, where the functions are located at present.
Staples first opened in the UK in 1993 in partnership with Kingfisher, but is now wholly-owned by US parent Staples Inc. The retailer has more than 1,500 stores worldwide, annual sales of US$11.6 billion (£7.09 billion) and net income of US$417 million (£255 million). In the UK, Clark estimates Staples' sales to be about£375 million for 2002.