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open 150 outlets worldwide every year.;Expansion plans for Ikea furniture stores include Asia. GLOBAL RETAILERS GET READY FOR NEW SHOPPING EMPIRES

By Published on .

If retailers' ambitious global expansion plans succeed, the world will be a lot like a giant shopping mall by the year 2000.

More people will be able to shop till they drop at the same stores anywhere in the world, although not every country has developed shopping as a major leisure activity. While U.S. malls rarely seem to close, German stores face steep restrictions on evening, Saturday afternoon and Sunday hours.

But such restrictions aren't stopping The Gap, which will open its first German stores within a year, or the Body Shop, which hopes to double the 55 stores the personal care products chain already has there.

The Southampton, England-based Body Shop is franchising its way into global awareness with environmentally friendly, politically correct personal care items made with ingredients from around the world, from Japanese cleansing granules to Australian tea oil. Ninety percent of the Body Shop's 1,290 stores are owned by franchisees, and the retailer is using franchising to open 150 stores a year, mostly far from its home market.

Already 70% of the Body Shop's store sales come from outside the U.K., and if the chain's expansion efforts are successful, that percentage could increase to 90% by the year 2000.

"The Body Shop has only scratched the surface of what it can do internationally," said John Richards, an analyst at Natwest Bank in London.

The U.S., Europe and Asia are all major expansion areas, with the Philippines, South Korea and even China seen as future growth markets. In Japan, the Body Shop has 44 stores and plans to continue opening 20 per year for the foreseeable future.

The word Aveda means "knowledge of nature" in Sanskrit, and as interest in natural products grows, Austrian-born former hair stylist Horst M. Rechelbacher is taking his upscale plant-based Aveda hair and skin care and cosmetics brand around the world.

The privately owned company is already in seven markets outside the U.S., where Aveda is headquartered in Minneapolis. It will open Aveda Environmental Lifestyles Stores this fall in Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia, Belgium, Austria and the Netherlands and is in negotiations in Japan.

"We will have 62 global Life-style stores by the end of this year and more than 500 flagship stores globally" by 2000, Mr. Rechelbacher said.

An Aveda ecological fashion and health magazine, launching this month and including a mail order catalog, will also be used as a marketing tool overseas.

Family-owned Ikea already has more than 2,000 furniture stores worldwide, but is targeting Asia and North America for investment over the next few years. About 20 stores are due to open next year.

Ikea's international reputation took a hit last year after news accounts told of Ikea owner Ingvar Kamprad's links to and financial support of Sweden's Nazi movement up to 1954. Although Mr. Kamprad published an immediate apology for his past, the negative publicity forced Ikea to cancel plans for its first Israeli stores.

Among U.S. retailers, The Gap has become trendy in the U.K. with about 50 Gap and GapKids stores. Three have opened in Paris, including one in the Galeries Lafayette department store. The San Francisco-based apparel company is tackling Asia next, and will open in Japan in the next year. In the U.S., the Gap is suffering from an apparel business sales downturn and copycat discounters, but the company is considered one of the best managed in the U.S. and has traditionally pulled through slumps.

Another U.S. company, Nine West Group, is hoping its ad slogan "We all need shoes" will prove attractive in other markets. Nine West, a marketer and retailer of women's shoes in the $30 to $150 range, has a 9.7% share of the $14.4 billion U.S. women's shoe market. The company has recently set up a joint venture with clothes company Toppy International to open four stores in Hong Kong and is pursuing joint ventures in Australia, China, the Pacific Rim and the U.K.

Nine West is "by far the dominant manufacturer of better shoes in the world and definitely in the U.S.," said Laurence Leeds Jr., managing director at Buckingham Research Group, New York.

Hong Kong-based Toppy also owns Episode, a fast-spreading upmarket women's apparel chain based on designer-like fashions at a more affordable price.

One shopper recently noticed a pink summer dress in the Episode corner of a London department store, tried the same dress on the following week at an Episode boutique in Paris and finally bought it, on sale, in a shopping mall in Cleveland.

The world-as-one-giant-shopping-mall concept may become reality sooner than we think.

Contributing to this story: Charles Siler, Alice Z. Cuneo and Kemba Johnson.

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