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Littlewoods to launch banking

LITTLEWOODS IS set to launch its banking operations in the next few weeks as part of a plan to extend its business beyond high street stores and mail order. Littlewoods Bank will initially offer savings and ISAs and the services will be available in the stores and via the Internet. The group's banking partner has not yet been announced, writes Nigel Cope.

Littlewoods is also expanding its home-shopping television channel, which is run in conjunction with Granada and launched in November. Next month will see the first products from the Arcadia group made available on the channel, called Shop!. These will be from Evans and Hawskshead. Trials are also taking place with River Island.

In June, Littlewoods plans to offer Internet ordering. This will enable shoppers to view moving images from the TV channel on their computer screen before placing an order.

Littlewoods claims that Shop! has been receiving orders at a rate of 1,000 a week with jewellery, sportswear and kitchen products the most popular purchases.

Littlewoods hopes to use its mail-order capability, including call centres and delivery systems, to sign joint ventures with other retailers wishing to sell via the Internet and digital television. Littlewoods has invested around pounds 20m in its Shop! channel and expects it to break even in its third year.