UK Fashion Retailer Topshop Plans China Stores in 2008

British fashion retailer Topshop plans to open its first China store early next year, following rivals such as Inditex's Zara and Hennes & Mauritz AB in setting up shop in the world's fastest growing major economy, sources familiar with the situation said on Thursday.

Topshop had signed a deal to rent space in the Shanghai Superbrand Mall in the city's financial district, said the sources, who declined to be identified.

The mall, in which Zara and H&M already have shops, is managed by a property arm of Charoen Pokphand group, Thailand's biggest agricultural business conglomerate.

"Topshop is definitely not coming to China for just one store," one of the sources said.

"It is also looking at many other Chinese cities, such as Beijing and Hong Kong."

Other sources confirmed Topshop was in talks with several property developers in the former British colony of Hong Kong in the hope of launching Topshop stores in the city next year.

Topshop could not immediately be reached for comment.

China's fashion retail market is booming alongside changing lifestyles and income growth. Retail sales in general are expected to grow about 15 percent in 2007, analysts have said.

Inditex, Europe's biggest fashion retailer, expected to open around 15 stores in China and its Chinese store openings should spike in 2008 after an aggressive location hunt, Inditex executives told Reuters in June.

C&A, another rival of Topshop, opened its first China store in Shanghai in April and had said it would expand its shop network into Beijing, China's capital, in 2008.

Topshop is owned by Arcadia Group, Britain's largest clothing retailer and its top boss, British billionaire Philip Green, had said he planned to open Topshop stores in New York this year, part of the firm's global expansion strategy.

Topshop plans to retain its "low price but good design" sales strategy at the initial stage when it enters China market next year, the sources said, adding that the firm would mainly target young Chinese.

China's competitive $1 trillion retail market has already attracted more than a dozen overseas stores and some of them, such as Uniqlo, run by Japan's Fast Retailing and Esprit, have become household names in major Chinese cities.

Others such as U.S. store Gap and Britain's Marks and Spencer, have not opened stores in mainland China yet though their brands are already known to many Chinese consumers partly because of pirated goods or illegal imports.