Debenhams targets Libya and Morocco

Debenhams is considering opening shops in Libya and Morocco, as the department store seeks out new countries to drive its international sales growth.

It is thought that Debenhams, which has 170 stores in the UK and Republic of Ireland, has held talks with potential franchise partners that operate in the two countries.

The department store typically uses franchisees to open shops overseas.

But a timeframe for launching in Libya and Morocco is unclear. UK retailers are increasingly seeking to enter new international markets, which present faster growth opportunities than the mature and saturated UK market.

If Debenhams does open in Libya, which is still run by Colonel Gadaffi, it will follow rivals Marks & Spencer, Bhs and Monsoon into the country. Libya has a rising middle class and vibrant retail economy.

Debenhams opened its first international franchise store in Bahrain in 1997, but now has 51 stores in 18 countries, including Cyprus, India, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait and Russia.

In 2008, Debenhams revealed plans to more than double its international sales to about £600m by the end of August 2012. Debenhams launched in Egypt and Malta earlier this year.

In April, it also laid out plans to open new stores in Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan and Slovakia in the second half of its current financial year. But suggestions by sources that Debenhams was planning to also enter Brazil are thought to be wide of the mark.

For the half year ending 27 February 2010, Debenhams delivered headline pre-tax profits up by 18.6 per cent to £123.6m.

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