MADRID Spanish clothing retailer Cortefiel is stepping up expansion overseas, including a return to the United States, to try to compensate for a difficult domestic market.
The company, originally a family business founded more than 100 years ago, was bought in 2005 by private equity firms PAI Partners, CVC Capital and Permira, just two years before Spain's boom years of credit-fuelled high spending came to an end.
The group still has almost half its stores in Spain and Portugal and group revenue is down by 10 percent since 2006 to 954 million euros ($1.27 billion) in 2012.
To try to cope with the tough conditions in Spain, Cortefiel has run aggressive discounting campaigns and closed unprofitable stores and expanded internationally.
Chief Executive Juan Carlos Escribano, who took over in 2009, wants 50 to 55 percent of sales to come from overseas by next year, up from 47 percent currently.
"Old Europe is going to have a few very, very quiet years," the CEO told the Reuters Global Consumer and Retail Summit.
He said with Spain's unemployment above 27 percent, spending on clothes in the country was back at levels of some 20 years ago.
In contrast, Cortefiel's international sales grew 20 to 25 percent in 2012 year-on-year.
The group has entered 35 new countries in the last five years, including markets such as Russia, China, Mexico and Turkey. It now has now has 1,900 outlets, stores and concessions in department stores, in 70 countries, with less than a third run on a franchise basis.
Cortefiel is returning to the United States, where it once sold clothes through U.S. department stores in the 1960s and 1970s. It aims to open 80 franchise stores there within five years.
Escribano also sees the potential to increase profitability by taking over franchise stores, which it has already done in Russia earlier this year and the Balkans last year.
The company's brands include Cortefiel, Women's Secret and Springfield plus designer range Pedro del Hierro.
The private equity owners in 2012 refinanced a 1.38 billion euro syndicated loan with creditor banks, the second refinancing since the buyout.
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(Editing by Jane Merriman)