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Topshop Sells Stake—A New Reason for US Retailers to Worry

Stacey Widlitz, Retail Consultant and Independent Analyst
Wednesday, 5 Dec 2012 | 12:06 PM ET
Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Several news outlets are reporting Philip Green is close to selling a 25 percent stake in Topshop/Topman to LA-based private equity firm Leonard Green. So what will Sir Philip do with the nearly $250 million he'll net?

One thing we can be sure of is Topshop has its sights set on expansion plans in the U.S. and Asia.

While the fast fashion retailer has already arrived in the U.S., with flagships in New York, Chicago and Las Vegas as well as a partnership with Nordstrom, plans are to add 15 to 20 flagships over time. That time frame may suddenly be closer than we thought.

Which retailers should be most afraid? The list is long but the obvious names include Gap, Aeropostale, American Eagle, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Urban Outfitters.

Fast fashion continues to gain market share, particularly in Europe, and it looks like the U.S. better be prepared to complete with the new entrant. While U.S. retailers have already learned how to co-exist with H&M's physical stores, don't forget that retailer will also turn up the heat with an online launch next year. Talk about a one, two punch.

What is so special about Topshop? Simply put, the retailer is everything the consumer is looking for — value and newness. And if that is not enough, you can get a manicure, hair extensions and a tattoo.

I can tell you in London, the flagship traffic trends leave the competition in the dust, which is why Topshop has won SW Retail Advisors' "Kate & Wills Traffic Award" more often than any other retailer across the pond.

According to my counts, 200 consumers walk through one of two main doors every seven-to-nine minutes on an average weekend. This past weekend that number dropped to six minutes. That is compared to the competition running, which takes an average of 10-20 minutes to get that rate.

And it is not just traffic. Conversion rates at Topshop beat the competition by a healthy margin during the past 10 weekends. Only Limited's Victoria's Secret Bond Street rivaled Topshop on two occasions, SW Retail observed.

Now that Sandy is behind us and the West Coast ports are open, Topshop offers something new for retailers to worry about.

Disclousure: Widlitz is short shares of the Gap.

Stacey Widlitz is the President of SW Retail Advisors Inc. She has worked at UBS, SG Cowen, Fulcrum Partners and in 2005 was one of three analysts to launch the Research Department at Pali Capital, where she covered Retail and Home Video for 5 years.

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