Border patrol: UK merchants expand overseas


More than 150 million consumers in the European Union shop
online, according to a new report commissioned by communications
agency The Blue Door. But only 20 per cent of them, or 30 million,
shop from sites based outside their native country. Since
shoppers aren’t crossing the virtual borders to come to their
online shops, marketers are going to the shoppers, by launching
country-specific websites.

Among the British marketers crossing the Channel is Buyagift.com.
In July the experience-days etailer opened an office in Paris and
a French website, Coolkado.fr. Buyagift is now “very much
considering the opportunities to expand into other
countries” said head of marketing Alison Wade, and will
undertake market studies in Germany and Spain in the first
quarter of the year.

Another home-grown cataloguer expanding into Continental Europe
is men’s skincare brand Mankind. Launched in the UK in 2001, the
£4.5 million business plans to unveil a site in Germany this
year to “take advantage of the growth in the European
market”.

Of course, international expansion is not limited to British
companies. Swedish hardware store Clas Ohlson, which in its home
country is nicknamed the “to-do shop”-a place that
sells everything, helping customers tick off their to-do
lists-opened its first UK store in November and plans to
introduce a UK catalogue in the spring. The new London shop is
part of “a long-term commitment to the UK,” said
president/CEO Klas Balkow. The £400 million company has more
than 100 stores and circulates 4 million catalogues annually in
Scandinavia.

US-based CSN Stores, which operates more than 200 websites,
ranging from AllModernFurniture.com to Strollers.com, has crossed
the Atlantic to open European headquarters in Ireland. The
company launched CookwareEssentials.co.uk in the UK in time for
the Christmas season. It will follow this launch with a lighting
website in the first quarter of 2009, after which it will
introduce furniture sites. CSN also plans to expand to other
European countries, identifying Germany as a potential target.
Founded in 2002, CSN has annual turnover of more than
£135.4 million ($202 million).

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