Zara plans further push into Britain

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Zara, the Spanish fashion retailer owned by Inditex, is planning a major expansion into the UK and other parts of Europe this year.

Zara and its sister companies Zara Homes, Massimo Dutti and Bershka, the teenage fashion chain, are to open up to 450 stores across Europe. It is part of a push by Inditex to expand outside Spain, where it opened 69 per cent of its new stores last year.

Inditex has 56 shops in the UK, 45 of which are Zara stores, and this is expected to rise significantly in 2006. The group also plans to focus on widening its market in Germany and Spain. Last year, Inditex opened a record 400 stores, representing 80 per cent of its €800m (£550m) total investment for 2005.

Aspokesman for Inditex said the company would not reveal where the new stores would be located in the UK until its results are published in March.

The expansion of Inditex into the UK and other European countries comes as two other major Spanish fashion retailers focus beyond their own country. Mango and Cortefiel plan to expand in Europe, the US and Asia this year, opening 400 shops between them.

Mango, which has stores in 80 countries with annual sales of €1.1bn, plans to double the number of international outlets it has been opening annually to 200. Meanwhile, Cortefiel, which was taken over recently by the private-equity firms CVC, PAI and Permira, will double its network of 1,100 stores in the next five years. At present, two-thirds of Cortefiel's stores are in Spain, but it also has a presence in 37 other countries.

Inditex marked its 30th anniversary last year withnet profitsof €520.5m for the nine months to 31 October and a new chief executive, Pablo Isla, replacing its veteran head Jose Maria Castellano.