Dutch high street staple Hema is to expand outside Europe for the first time in its checkered 92-year history by opening three stores later this year in Dubai.
Known for its affordable and well-designed products, Hema said it was joining forces with Dubai-based Apparel Group in making the move into the Middle East.
The stores group, now owned by British investment company Lion Capital, signals a new phase of international expansion, Hema said in a statement on Monday.
In addition to the three stores in Dubai – generally recognised as a shoppers’ paradise – Hema plans to open many more stores in the region.
Apparel Group is a global fashion and lifestyle retail conglomerate based in the United Arab Emirates. The group has more than 1,750 stores selling 70 brands on four continents but centred on the Middle East. Its brands include Tommy Hilfiger, Nautica, Aldo, Nine Aeropostale and Hortons.
Richard Flint, Hema’s international operations director said there has been a lot of interest in Hema from countries outside Europe. ‘Over the past few years, we have therefore structured our store concept and organisation in such a way that we can now open stores in new countries quickly and simply. We have opted for Dubai because of the huge potential,’ he said.
Hema recently announced its entry into the Austrian market. The company also plans to open more stores in the years ahead in countries where it is already active, such as France, Germany, Spain and the UK. Hema now operates more than 700 stores in nine countries, and has a payroll of more than 11,000.
Lion Capital bought Hema in 2007 and wants to sell it because returns are too low – Dutch investment company Gilde Buy Out Partners together with private equity house Alpinvest are known to have made an offer for Hema. The Financieele Dagblad said on Monday there are other potential buyers.
Another option is an IPO for Hema which had many owners over the years. The store was started as a price-point retailer by the owners of the luxury De Bijenkorf stores chain in 1926. Several venture capital companies have been owners of the chain since then.
In the meantime, Hema has again become profitable and booked net profit of €4.6min the third quarter of 2017, well up on the net loss of €1.6m in the year-earlier period.
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