As Primark reveals its plans to make its Stateside debut with a store in Boston in 2015, Retail Week takes a look at how British retailers have fared across the pond.

Sweet successes


Topshop’s only a recent entrant to America, having opened in 2009 but it’s considered one of the few major UK clothing retailers to have cracked the States. With flagships in New York, Chicago, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, Americans love the fast fashion chain which counts high-profile superstars such as Beyonce and Rihanna as fans. Sir Philip Green extended his partnership with US retailer Nordstrom last year, taking its Topshop concessions to 42 and Topman concessions to 18.


Set up by American entrepreneur Natalie Massenet, the US remains one of the luxury etailer’s key markets. It has significantly invested in its US operations, having launched a distribution centre in New York in 2006 and later introducing its own fleet of vans for same day deliveries in Manhattan. A corporate office opened in Manhattan in 2012.


Boden is actually quite a developed brand in the US, having launched its America catalogue in 2002. Four years later and the US business accounted for a quarter of group sales and was identified as central to Boden’s future development. The US business has accounted for more than a third of group sales since 2009, and the market is set to overtake the domestic business as Boden’s most important distribution channel in the not too distant future. 

Ted Baker

The quirky retailer has powered ahead in the States, with the business operating about 20 standalone shops including a store on New York’s Fifth Avenue and 19 concessions in Bloomingdales stores. Ted Baker said sales in the US and Canada were up 38% to £50.7m for the year to January 25 2013. Ted Baker is still expanding its network in the US market, and the retailer said there is the potential to expand to around 30 stores in the US in the medium-term.


This British brand has firmly captured the attention of rich US shoppers. A flagship store was opened in New York in 1970, and it now operates more than 30 stores in the US and is also sold in Bloomingdales. In 2009, the iconic brand opened its American headquarters on Madison Avenue in New York.


Another etailer to have made its mark in the US is Asos. Launched in 2010, Asos has made the market the company’s second largest outside of the UK.

Famous failures


The grocer is considered one of the biggest US flops in recent years having retreated from the market last year when it shook off its loss-making Fresh & Easy brand. Tesco suffered from stiff competition from Walmart, Trader Joe’s and SuperValu as well as slowdown in the economy since the recession hit. Tesco completed the sale of Fresh & Easy to Ron Burkle’s investment firm Yucaipa late last year.


Sainsbury’s took an initial 21% stake in supermarket chain Shaw’s in 1983 for $20.1m and four years later it took full control of the company. However problems in its domestic business forced it to sell off the American subsidiary to Albertsons in 2004 as the grocer looked to focus time and resources on its core market.

Marks & Spencer

M&S pulled out of fashion retailer Brooks Brothers in 2001 and then from its other investment in upmarket Kings Supermarkets in 2006. “M&S investment in Brooks Brothers was always a bit of a vanity acquisition, they did not understand the heritage of the brand,” Conlumino managing director Neil Saunders previously told Retail Week.


Dixons acquired US chain Silo in 1987, which with 119 stores and 2,000 employees, was the third largest electrical retailer in the United States. However the recession hit and Dixons sold off the loss-making business to competitor Fretter Inc.

WH Smith

WH Smith operated stores in the States from 1985 until 2003, mainly in airports. However its US arm was impacted after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. In 2003, the retailer sold its chain of 180 airport stores in the US for £41m to the Hudson Group and 280 of its US hotel stores were sold for £8m.

Laura Ashley

Laura Ashley’s classic old English style was expected to have appealed to Americans, however it failed to catch shoppers’ imaginations. The retailer sold off its entire US operation for a dollar in 1999 after it failed to generate adequate sales.