Tesco intends to make its F&F clothing and accessories line "the world's leading brand of affordable fashion"- and the Middle East is central to that ambition.
As a major step in turning F&F into a global brand, the UK company is partnering with the Saudi Arabian retail group Fawaz Abdulaziz Al Hokair. A franchise agreement with the Saudi firm could take F&F across the Middle East, beginning with 19 outlets in Saudi.
Tesco has had a lot of negativity in the UK recently. But this move has attracted awestruck comment from the US magazine Advertising Age.
The magazine says , "Tesco, an adventurous marketer that has already set up a retail bank, a film-production company and a mobile phone business, is now targeting fashion."
F&F was launched as Florence & Fred in the U.K. and Ireland in 2001. It now sells in 11 countries, mostly in Central Europe. Two stores in the Czech Republic, in Prague and Brno, wholly-owned and operated by Tesco, have been testing ideas for the franchise format.
The first F&F franchise will open this year in Saudi Arabia. Although based primarily on the core European F&F range, Tesco will work closely with Al Hokair to develop a range that works for the local market.
in Saudi Al Hokair already works with many western retailers including Marks & Spencer, Miss Selfridge, Wallis and America's Gap and Banana Republic
Al Hokair, Saudi Arabia's biggest mall operator, plans to launch F&F stores in shopping centres, inside department stores and even supermarkets.
Jason Tarry, CEO of F&F International, said , "The franchise model is a natural extension of the work we have been doing to turn F&F into a truly global fashion brand.
"We have in a very short time created a market-leading fashion brand in Central Europe, worth more than £400 million. Now we have the opportunity to grow our brand further, in markets where Tesco does not have a presence."
F&F launched in Tesco supermarkets in Asia in 2009, and now sells in the Republic of Ireland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Turkey, China, Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, as well as the UK. Online orders are handled from the UK - going out to 21 European countries
Simon Marshall, CEO of Fawaz Abdulaziz Al Hokair, said in a statement, "We're delighted to be the world's first franchise partner for F&F."
Tesco has refined the layout, visual merchandising, and lighting in the F&F areas of its stores. Mr. Tarry said, "Two years ago we had 40% awareness among customers and now it's 90%. "