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Wal-Mart Goal: George as World’s Largest Apparel Brand

Andy Bond, managing director of Wal-Mart’s Asda/George apparel, discussed the label’s potential to surpass sales of the Gap brand.

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Photo By WWD Staff

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Photo By WWD Staff

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Photo By WWD Staff

LONDON — Will the world’s biggest retailer soon own the world’s biggest clothing brand?

Andy Bond thinks so. Indeed, the managing director of Wal-Mart/Asda’s George clothing brand is hoping the sizzling tills at the two pilot stand-alone George stores in the U.K. aren’t just beginner’s luck.

In the two weeks since the opening of the George stores in Leeds, England, and Croydon, a London suburb, both have outstripped expectations. On its first trading day, the Leeds store took in about $51,000, while projections for the entire first week had been $65,600. Croydon’s cash sales on opening day were about 40 percent higher than those of the Leeds unit.

Since both stores opened, sales have been “tremendously strong,” said Bond, who is also head of all nonfood business at Asda. “Who knows what’s going to happen in three months’ time? It’s too early to say.” Asda is Wal-Mart’s wholly owned division in the U.K., and the motor behind the George brand of clothing, accessories and children’s wear.

Although Bond may appear cautious, he and his bosses at Wal-Mart have very high expectations for the brand Bond said is still in its infancy.

In an exclusive interview with WWD, Bond talked about George’s potential, saying he believes that in the medium term — or over the next five years — sales, which are approximately $1.64 billion, could overtake those of the Gap brand, which were $6.8 billion in the fiscal year ending Feb. 1. This clarifies a report in these columns earlier this month that George sales would outstrip the $14.45 billion sales at Gap Inc.

All figures have been converted from the pound at current exchange.

“I would say that becoming the world’s biggest clothing brand is an audacious goal, and not one that’s easy to achieve,” Bond said in a telephone interview from his home near Asda’s headquarters in Leeds. “But the math is basic. If George is successful, it will be in every Wal-Mart store in the U.S. It’s clear that Wal-Mart has big ambitions for apparel generally, and George will be a big part of that.”
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