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Dumont López to head Primark womenswear as retailer targets global growth

New Look’s loss is Primark’s gain with Paula Dumont López set to head up the value fashion giant’s womenswear offer. The news of her appointment comes as Primark targets fast global expansion, despite its slow growth so far in the US.

In a high profile move, Dumont López had been named New Look creative chief in June but then saw the role snatched away in September as that retailer struggled with sales and profits and shifted its strategy under changed management.

But the woman who had been head of product development at Zara Basic and senior VP/head of Esprit Women is set to join Primark next month with analysts interpreting the appointment as a move by the company to accelerate its international growth.

Dumont López has impressive international credentials having worked her way up at Zara (during a period when that chain was growing fast globally) and then moving to troubled Esprit where she helped turn around its sluggish womenswear performance.

Primark’s growth abroad has lagged that of Zara but the chain has proved itself to be the fastest expanding among Britain’s top 10 names in the past few years.

The company is now also focused on mainland Europe and the US and its new womenswear chief’s international outlook should prove invaluable.

It will be interesting to see what sort of impact she makes in the US market where Primark has been expanding but has not grown as fast as some had expected it to.

The company has only a small number of US stores (eight) and is downsizing three of these. Analysts said the company has suffered with most of its stores in malls just at a time when mall traffic is falling, and with no e-tail operation to boost sales.

But the company has always taken a very careful approach to expansion and has been prepared to bide its time in the US and ensure profits aren’t hurt. As well as planning to downsize some US stores, it has added to its Downtown Crossing store in Boston this year as it learnt about the market and found the best formula to get maximum profits per square foot. In the summer, it will open its newest US site at Kings Mall in Brooklyn.

And its lack on an e-store is less about it having its head in the sand and more about its aggressive focus on margins. John Bason, CFO of parent company Associated British Foods, said an online presence isn’t an option as “the cost to support home delivery can’t be supported with our price points.”

But while the assault on the US market is taking longer than might have been hoped, Primark is still rolling out successfully in Europe and continues to open stores in the UK. Research group Verdict recently predicted that it would overtake Next to become the second biggest UK clothing retailer (behind M&S) soon.

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