If the difference between men and boys is the price of their toys, for young women and girls, it may be the price of their accessories. For thrifty, fashion-conscious females ages 3 to 27, Claire's Stores is the queen of costume jewelry, handbags, and hair bows, as well as free ear piercing. The company operates more than 3,000 shops, primarily in malls, under the Claire's and Icing banners. (Icing targets twenty-something females.) Its stores are present in all 50 US states, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and Canada, as well as about a dozen European countries. Founded by Rowland Schaefer and later run by his daughters, Claire's Stores is owned by the New York-based private equity firm Apollo Management.
The retailer's fiscal 2012 (ends January) sales were essentially flat: inching up just one-tenth of a percent vs. the prior year. Same-store sales in North America increased nearly 3%, but failed to compensate for the poor performance of its stores in Europe, where same-store sales fell by more than 4%. The lackluster sales performance came despite the opening of more than 150 new company-owned stores -- about 130 in Europe -- and entry into two new large franchise markets: Mexico and India. (About 380 Claire's stores are operated by franchisees or licensees in Japan, the Middle East, Turkey, Russia, Greece, Guatemala, Malta, Ukraine, Mexico, and India.) The profit picture was brighter, with net income up nearly 170% in fiscal 2012 vs. the prior year.
Going forward, Claire's plans to open between 125 and 130 new stores in fiscal 2013, most of which will again be in Europe. Claire's is also looking to grow its e-commerce business (launched in 2011 in the US). – less