Heading offshore is fine, but be aware that things are different and altered formats are required.

Heading offshore is fine, but be aware that things are different and altered formats are required.

Ted Baker, Supergroup, Marks & Spencer, Tesco and many others. Not all, but a fair number of retailers at the moment are focussing on how they can take what they do in the UK and make it suitable for markets where they currently have only a foothold, if that. And they do so at a moment when the UK recovery, well, perhaps stabilisation might be a more appropriate term, is underway and the signs are that things are getting better.

Whatever the case and whether better times are indeed just around the corner or not, it does appear that Brit retailers think many corners of many foreign fields should be forever England, or at least part of UK plc. It is easy to see why this assumption is being made. The Far and Middle East, Germany, Russia and North America all look, in varying degrees, attractive options currently when set against the UK.

The question is whether Brit brands and retailers have sufficient pull to make it overseas and if not, whether they are savvy enough to create offers that will appeal to shoppers who know next to nothing about them. The smartest operators actually create something different offshore and then import the experience back to the UK mothership. Tesco’s Czech F&F standalones stand as a case in point and the results are now visible in a number of Tesco Extras.

Is now therefore the moment to head overseas? Providing things look OK on the home front, the answer is probably a qualified yes. Qualified because an awful lot of research needs to be done before taking the plunge and this time Tesco’s Fresh & Easy experience provides a salutory lesson.

The UK recovery still looks pretty tentative, but all things being equal, now might be a good time to look beyond your own pretty mature and familiar backyard. And in spite of the many who are doing so, there are plenty who are not and who, with a little judicious format engineering could find fortune and additional revenue streams abroad.