Polish companies go west in search of profits

Corporates challenge in mature markets of UK and Germany after expanding east in past

For most of the three decades since Poland embraced capitalism, Polish companies seeking to expand abroad have usually headed east. Increasingly, however, they are also looking to the west. Perhaps the most eye-catching foray came last year, when Reserved, the brand owned by the fashion group LPP, made a glitzy arrival in the UK, taking over the prime Oxford Street site once occupied by the now-defunct BHS and throwing an opening party attended by supermodel Kate Moss.

Founded in 1991 by Marek Piechocki and Jerzy Lubianiec and based in the northern port city of Gdansk, LPP has grown to be one of Poland’s 20 biggest companies, with its shares rising by a factor of almost 200 since listing in 2001, giving the group a market value of 17bn zlotys (€4.63bn).

When it first pushed abroad, LPP focused on central and eastern Europe, where shopping malls were popping up in huge numbers to cater for the surge in private consumption that followed the collapse of the Iron Curtain. But as the group has grown — its revenues have more than quintupled over the past decade to reach 7bn zlotys last year — its priorities have begun to shift.

LPP entered the German market in 2014 and Mr Piechocki says that the next stage of the company’s development will depend on succeeding in western Europe. “To build an international brand we have to be present not just in central Europe but also on the main streets of western fashion cities like London, Paris and Milan,” he said. “When tourists go to shop, those are the cities they go to.”

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Source: www.ft.com

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