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George Breaks Free: Wal-Mart’s Asda Line Gets Own U.K. Stores

Wal-Mart has ambitious plans for its George apparel brand, rolling out independent stores and taking the line into wholesaling.

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A George look

A George look.

Photo By WWD Staff

BOSTON — By George, Wal-Mart has ambitious plans for the apparel brand created by its U.K.-based subsidiary, Asda.

The label, which ranks second in apparel sales in Britain, will get its own digs and its name over the door this September, when Asda will open two branded boutiques outside London. Wal-Mart also is taking George into wholesaling, reportedly preparing it for distribution to Seiyu, the Japanese retailer in which Wal-Mart has a minority stake.

Asda will open a 12,000-square-foot George store in Leeds, a midsize city in northern Britain where it is headquartered, and an 8,000-square-foot space in Croydon, a suburb about 16 miles south of London. Both stores are part of a yearlong concept test. In terms of scale, the stores are large for the U.K., ranking close in size to those of such brands as French Connection, Zara, H&M and Top Shop.

An Asda spokeswoman declined to speculate on how far and fast George stores might be rolled out. “It’s a case of wait-and-see,” she said.

Both stores will carry misses’, juniors’, men’s wear and children’s apparel and footwear.

The company is aiming for trend-savvy customers who live in densely populated areas. That demographic can significantly broaden Asda’s traditional suburban customer base, according to a source within the firm.

“We’re looking for customers who can’t easily get out to Asda, as well as to reach our existing customers when they’re in different shopping moods,” the source said. “When they’re out on the High Street [main shopping street], they may be looking for something special to go out in. When they’re in Asda picking up their groceries, they may be looking for something more essential, like a T-shirt.”

George, introduced 12 years ago at Asda, is the U.K.’s second-biggest apparel brand by volume, behind Marks & Spencer, according to an Asda spokeswoman. As of May 4, the brand captured 6.5 percent of the British apparel market, pulling in roughly $1.6 billion annually.

George is the only apparel line sold at Asda and is carried in 235 of Asda’s 260 stores, in dedicated departments ranging from 2,500 square feet to 20,000 square feet. The label offers basics and fast-fashion styles developed and produced in fewer than eight weeks. New merchandise hits floors every four weeks, the source said. It recently has expanded into plus sizes, petites, tweens, teens and maternitywear and also is the number one children’s wear retailer in the U.K.
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