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Fat Face: growing home and away


Posted At: 16 September 2015 00:25 AM
Related Categories: Retailers


Casual clothing brand Fat Face has announced ambitious growth plans as it expands into the US market. This is the business’ first venture outside the UK and Ireland. With 216 shops in the UK and Ireland, it reflects a new strategy, with a record £9m invested in improving its IT and distribution network as well as growing its UK footprint. Fat Face was founded by Tim Slade and Jules Leaver, in 1988, who started by selling sweatshirts to fellow “ski bums”.
Now firmly established as a market leader in the UK, Fat Face plans to open its first US store in Portland, Maine, this November. This was despite suffering a “bruising” autumn last year, where the warm weather hit sales of coats and knitwear, pushing down profits by 7%, against a 2.7% rise in sales to £205.4m. This translated as sales in established stores falling, with the top line being supported by new store openings and an 11% rise in online sales. This shows how retailers are increasingly reliant on online businesses to support their physical presence.
Fat Face is looking at two stores operating in the US before Christmas with an additional three opened by next May. Chief executive Anthony Thompson has confirmed the business aims to have around 10-15 stores in 18 months. It’s recently launched US website shows shoppers appear to be buying similar items to their UK counterparts. With a similar climate to the UK, the East coast of the US is considered the best place for UK clothing retailers to enter this marketplace.
Last year, Fat Face was obliged to abandon flotation plans as investors lost interest in retail stocks after a surge in IPOs. However, it secured £180m in new finance last year after the float plans were ditched and is now focusing on its five-year growth schedule.
Fat Face joins other UK retailers looking to enter the US market, including Primark which opens its first store in Boston next month. Boden, the online and catalogue retailer, has also announced plans to open more physical stores in the UK and its first US outlet following three consecutive years of growth.
Closer to home, last week the brand confirmed plans to open an expanded Exeter branch, its largest UK flagship store to date.

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