Mobile phone operator Orange is to ramp up its expansion in the UK in an effort to make its property portfolio more competitive with rival brands.

Orange wants to open at least 45 stores this year, to expand its store portfolio from 350 to almost 400. This will give it nearly half as many outlets as rival Carphone Warehouse, which has 804 shops.

The retailer has appointed Cushman & Wakefield to find sites of between 900 and 1,500 sq ft (85 and 140 sq m) across the UK. It has earmarked two sites in Birmingham, as well as space at Bluewater in Kent and the Trafford Centre in Manchester. Last week, it signed for a 1,540 sq ft (145 sq m) unit at the Elements shopping centre at Livingston, West Lothian.

Orange wants to increase the average size of its stores and will focus on larger units in its expansion. Some shops are as small as 300 sq ft (30 sq m) and Orange will upsize where possible.

Orange also plans to roll out its new fascia and in-store design. The fascia, which it has rolled out at sites such as Fisher Gate in Nottingham, is a black band with a small orange square in the centre with the logo inside.

The design was tested at six stores before being launched at a flagship in Cardiff last October. It has now been rolled out to 45 stores. Orange wants to have all stores converted by Christmas 2009. The retailer claims that all the revamped shops have seen a significant increase in sales.