Russia is next stop for UK shops

Debenhams leads way into what's set to be Europe's biggest market
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The Independent Online

Debenhams will launch its first store in Russia this Saturday and has "big plans" to roll out more shops in what is set to become Europe' biggest retail market.

The department store chain will open a 35,000sq ft shop – about half a football pitch – in Moscow's Mega Belaya Dacha mall via its franchise partner, Debruss.

The store will showcase beauty and cosmetics ranges, homewares and all its exclusive Designers at Debenhams range. The UK retailer has already advanced plans for more stores in Russia, which is set to become Europe's biggest retail market by 2013-2014.

Francis McAuley, Debenhams' international director, said: "We have big plans for future growth; this will be the first of many Debenhams stores in the country with a further eight already in the pipeline."

Debenhams, which has 70 franchised stores in 26 countries, including Iran, Malta and Malaysia, aims to double the size of its international business over the next five years.

Other UK retailers, including Marks & Spencer and Ted Baker, are also expanding overseas, as they seek fresh avenues of growth away from the challenging trading conditions on the UK high street.

Russia has a population of 143 million and a rapidly growing middle class. Mr McAuley said: "Russia is a key market. With an annual footfall of 70 million, Mega Belaya Dacha is the perfect spot for our first opening."

The retailer aims to benefit from the British heritage of its products and said its exclusive designer ranges – which include Butterfly by Matthew Williamson, H! by Henry Holland, Rocha by John Rocha, and J by Jasper Conran – will be new to the Russian market.

Debenhams recently posted underlying sales increases of 3.1 per cent over the 16 weeks to 23 June. Its shares closed at a 12-month high of 95p on Friday, valuing the retailer at £1.12bn.