Claire’s is a major US-based jewellery and accessories retailer with a global presence.  

The group trades through some 2,300 company-operated stores and well over 10,000 concessions across North America and Europe, while there are around 300 franchised stores further afield.

The group also has nearly 200 Icing stores in North America which target a slightly older market than Claire’s.

The retailer strives to connect with its customers as their “friend”, so engaging especially with teenagers on social media is a big part of the strategy. Driving sales via social media channels is now a key focus.

Increasingly, it is also using digital to help test potential new international markets at relatively low cost and risk.The retailer had previously expanded through company-owned stores in major markets and used franchises to target new or untested markets.

Concession partnerships are becoming increasingly important across the group. In its domestic market, Claire’s had a presence in nearly 3,000 Walmart locations by the end of 2022, while it opened more than 500 concessions across the UK in FY2021 in partnership with Asda, Matalan and New Look. 

Sales across the wider group had continued to decline and Claire’s had been struggling with crippling debt levels since the 2007 private equity-backed buyout by Apollo Management Inc. But in 2018, the retailer wiped out $1.9bn of debt and gained access to $575m in new capital through the Chapter 11 bankruptcy process. Claire’s filed to go public towards the end of 2021, but this would appear to have been derailed by the pandemic, with a date yet to be finalised for its listing. 

The UK business accounts for around 10% of group sales. Having been seriously impacted by the pandemic, UK sales rose 51.4% to £113.9m in the year to end-January 2022 (FY2021) as Covid restrictions eased across the UK. This was still well short of pre-pandemic levels, however.

Innovation rating: 2

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