Benetton backing Britain

One of the world's best known and most controversial fashion firms will give a big vote of confidence to Britain's economy on Thursday when the largest Benetton megastore in the world opens in Oxford Circus, writes Paul Rodgers.

The new shop, with 1,600 sq m of floor space (17,000 sq ft) will be a third larger than the company's New York store, which is scheduled to open next month.

The London store, which contrasts Venetian chandeliers with video walls and marble floors with disc-jockey booths, is likely to become a central bazaar for London's fashion conscious, but not too trendy, youth.

It is expected that the launch will be accompanied by a new series of advertisements in the long-running shock campaign that has featured, among other images, the body of a slaughtered soldier. The investment also marks a return in strength to the global textiles market after a disastrous recession. In 1992, the company was struck by poor sales and an over-valued lira.

In response, founder and chairman Luciano Benetton built highly automated manufacturing plants to compete with the sweatshops of South-east Asia.

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