New Look plans to open 200 stores over

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The Independent Online
New Look, the womenswear retailer which abandoned its stock market flotation two years ago, is planning to open 200 more stores over the next five years, taking its total to more than 500.

The rapid expansion programme will take the group's total store numbers from 333 to around 530 at the rate of 40 new openings a year. It would make New Look one of the largest fashion chains in Britain alongside Dorothy Perkins, part of the Burton group, which has more than 400 branches and 100 in-store concessions.

However, the company has no immediate plans for a fresh try at a stock market flotation after the problems in 1994 when its pounds 150m float was pulled at the last minute due to a weak new issues market and a lukewarm reaction from investors.

Gavin Aldred, a director, said: "We have no immediate plans but we have institutional investors and they are likely to want a float at some stage." It is thought that the company will not seek a flotation until next year.

BZW Private Equity and Prudential Venture Managers paid pounds 170m for 70 per cent of New Look in January. The remaining equity is held by directors and management including founder Tom Singh. Tony Collyer, the former Allders finance director, is to join New Look in a similar role next month.

Last year New Look opened 70 stores, though it has decided that figure was too high. The group is looking to open more stores in London and hopes to have around 30 stores within the M25. Mr Aldred says the ceiling for UK stores is 550-600 though it has plans to expand abroad.

There are 19 New Look outlets in France and its first German store opens next month.

Last year the group made operating profits of pounds 24m on sales of around pounds 180m. It expects sales over pounds 250m this year.