Muji plans UK growth after split with Liberty

Japanese no-brand retail chain Muji is set for a major expansion of its UK business after a severing of links between its parent company, Ryohin Keikaku, and Liberty, its joint venture partner in the UK. Stores are likely to be designed by McDaniel Woolf partner Richard Woolf.

The two retail companies will end their current arrangement next month, when Liberty will dispose of its 49 per cent stake in the Muji chain. Cookie Takahashi, chief UK representative of Ryohin Keikaku, says he plans between 12 and 15 London branches of Muji, and between 30 and 50 in the UK as a whole.

Three openings per year are planned, using larger stores than the current four. As yet, sites have not been acquired and designers have not been appointed.

The first UK store was designed by a Japanese group, Super Potato, with subsequent branches created by Richard Woolf with architect Harper Mackay. Cookie Takahashi says the UK team will “probably design the new ones”.

As part of the deal, Liberty will reclaim the space given over to Muji at the rear of its site on London’s Great Marlborough Street, from late February 1998.

Ian Thomson, managing director of Liberty, says the department store’s management has not yet decided how it will use the extra space. But he confirms that the redesign of the space will be handled by Stewart McColl, who is working on major refurbishments at the landmark store.

The project may also involve reclaiming some of the considerable office space at the site for retail use.

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