Deichmann Expands in UK Market

LONDON — Deichmann, Europe’s largest shoe retailer, isn’t letting the economy deter its expansion efforts.

The privately owned, Essen, Germany-based group, which sold 127 million pairs of shoes last year in its 2,300 stores, bowed its first London unit last week — a 7,300-sq.-ft. space in West London’s mammoth Westfield shopping center. Already, the retailer operates 31 stores in northern England and plans to eventually bring that total to 400, with more stores slated to open in the South.

“The U.K. is a key market for us, and we see a great deal of opportunity for expansion here,” said Heinrich Deichmann, CEO of the Deichmann Group. “Even with the difficult economic environment, we see a positive pattern of opportunity and will scale up our presence accordingly.”

However, Deichmann is likely to encounter stiff competition. “Fashion here is quite advanced, especially at the value end of the market, with Zara, Primark and New Look, in particular, selling more shoes in terms of volume than anyone else,” said George Wallace, CEO of British-based retailing specialist MHE Retail. “However, it’s a good time to negotiate rents, and I would imagine that Deichmann has witnessed the shakeout in the retail shoe market and now sees new space opened for a good shoe operator.”

Deichmann has been active in the U.S. since 1984, when it bought a majority stake in North Carolina-based Lerner Shoes Inc. Today, the U.S. market is the company’s second largest after Germany, operating stores under the nameplates Off Broadway and Rack Room Shoes.

However, the firm is eyeing new markets and plans to enter Bulgaria later this year, followed by Spain in 2010.

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