Expansion on the cards at Clinton

Clinton Cards, which recently acquired its downmarket rival Birthdays, yesterday set itself the target of increasing its high street presence by one-quarter by 2012.

Clinton Cards, which recently acquired its downmarket rival Birthdays, yesterday set itself the target of increasing its high street presence by one-quarter by 2012.

Amid slowing sales, Clinton Lewin, the managing director, said he felt "trepidation" about the challenge of integrating Birthdays' 484 stores. He expects the group, which made an estimated £8m loss last year, to break even in 2005.

But Mr Lewin insisted the acquisition was a sound move. "It moves the business forward. Birthdays has been starved of proper direction and management for a quite while. I think we can bring a lot to the party," he said.

Clinton Cards said it would put its opening programme on hold for the next 12 months while it focused on paying down its debts of £58m. The group expects to open 400 shops by 2012, and up to 70 Birthdays stores a year

Mr Lewin brushed aside WH Smith's attempt to take on specialist greetings cards retailers. "The extra space Smiths has given greetings cards and the extra revenues they're enjoying are poles apart," he said.

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