Go east, west, north and south young man. The case for UK retailers to expand overseas is currently strong.
News that fashion retailer River Island, the former Chelsea Girl, could now trade (maybe) from Chelsea in New York, Maine, Massachusetts or Michigan, among a number of other places bearing the same name as the posh area in central London, should come as no surprise.
This is a mature retailer that has honed its UK act consistently over the years, changing things bit by bit and generally keeping a pace or two ahead of shopper expectations.
As such, it is reasonably typical of some of the UK’s class operations and it may well be that it has looked at the status quo and decided that the UK is just not big enough and that future growth may lie beyond Blighty, wherever that might be
And it is probably true that in these days when the internet has caused retailers to reassess just how many stores they need to have an effective national presence, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland may seem somewhat small.
Add to this the fact that any trip to mainland Europe is likely to reveal the fact that the best UK retailers are very often better than many of their continental equivalents and the impulse to look elsewhere must seem compelling.
Couple all of this with the skill that our best retailers have demonstrated in creating formats, different interiors for different people and places, and it cannot be too much of a stretch to imagine an appropriate format being created for an entirely new market.
There are, of course, errors of judgement. When Tesco tried out Fresh & Easy in the US, it was a little hard not to wonder what was wrong with Tesco as a name and why it offered something completely different from back home, at a time when it still seemed to have the Midas touch.
The trick, surely, is to take what you’re good at, adapt it, but keep the essentials (including the name!) pretty similar to the original.
The world beyond our shores may be other, but the similarities are still probably greater than the differences, so sticking with what works would seem the right thing. Unknown unknowns are always bound to be tricky by their very nature and there is sufficient talent in what is done here to give it a spin overseas.
This caveat notwithstanding, overseas ventures look increasingly attractive given the constrictions of the UK.