Retailers bring American dream to UK high streets


There is a glut of US retailers said to be eyeing up a UK launch and a healthy dose of the American dream could be just what the doctor ordered to revive our forlorn high streets.

It might seem an odd time to be starting out on a European venture as sales figures, while not going backward, aren’t particularly promising, but it seems as though US retailers are doing exactly what many UK retailers are doing – looking abroad as a way to offset some pretty depressing scenes at home.

The US is mired in debt and shoppers there cut their spending in June for the first time in nearly two years, according to the US Department of Commerce, despite a rise in incomes.

The UK isn’t faring much better. The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics showed only modest sales growth in June.

So why is the tide turning now? Banana Republic, part of Gap, opened its first store in the UK in 2008 but there weren’t many significant US brands heading our way until Best Buy’s launch a year ago, and Forever 21’s Birmingham debut earlier this summer.

In the fashion camp, hot on the heels of Forever 21’s leap across the Atlantic, Aeropostale, one of its rivals in the States is said to be looking to follow suit, as is American Eagle although Victoria’s Secret’s long awaited UK debut has yet to materialise.

Upmarket home and cookware retailer Williams-Sonoma is also reported to be eyeing up the UK as part of a European move as is US home furnishings chain, CB2, part of Crate & Barrel.

Best Buy has yet to make a success in the UK, but only time will tell if its multi-platform, big box strategy will grow on UK consumers.

For many US retailers, the UK is a pathway to the rest of Europe, a testing ground for sentiment and success on this side of the pond.

While the UK economy might not be in recession anymore, the UK consumer certainly is with spending down and disposable income falling every month since the start of this year at least, according to Asda’s monthly Income Tracker.

So it’s fairly obvious that if it is to succeed on the UK high street, Forever 21 and other US émigrés, will need to steal share from UK competitors – that’s the only place that growth can come from.

It doesn’t take too much of a leap to see that the timing couldn’t be better for US brands to bring something new to the lacklustre high street and poach shoppers from rivals.

It’s always said that competition is good for business so new brands and new propositions could well be the way to get shoppers enthused about spending again.

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