Turkish clothing firms forced to return home

The Greek market has proven far from hospitable for a number of clothing companies from Turkey that in the middle of the last decade had seen Greece as a gateway to European markets.

It was in November 2005 when the opening of The Mall Athens, a large shopping center in the northern suburb of Maroussi, also saw the entry into Greece of Turkish companies Koton, Ipekyol, Mavi, Inci and Gizia. Seven years on, Koton is the only one out of those five that still has an outlet at the same shopping center and is seeking to expand its presence in the local market with three more stores by the end of the year.

Koton?s chief financial officer in Greece, Constantinos Aslanoglou, told Kathimerini that the very high rental rates have in many cases proven an insurmountable obstacle to growth for various chains in the way that their executives had planned. ?Even today there are some stores available in the market, but the owners would rather have them empty than reduce their rental fees,? Aslanoglou noted.

Koton recently expanded its store at The Mall Athens and is targeting the creation of a network of 10 outlets in Greece. It owns 600 stores in Europe, the Middle East and Turkey and operates largely along the lines of Spanish rival Inditex, offering ?fast fashion at affordable prices.?

However, Koton is the exception. The Ipekyol group had a disappointing time in Greece, where it had been operating eight stores. It now appears that its expansion took place too quickly and that it didn?t carry out adequate studies on the needs of local consumers. As a result, the group has now given up on its efforts to take root in Greece and Europe.

For Mavi Jeans, the competition was apparently much stiffer than expected, while in the case of footwear firm Inci there had been problems with the parent company that affected its local activity. Gizia remains in Greece, but the store is under the control of the Greek franchisee, which has acquired the rights to the development of the chain in this country.

Aslanoglou says, however, that Turkish entrepreneurs remain interested in entering the Greek market. For instance, logistics company Ekol has been operating in this country for the last three months, while in the food catering sector the first outlet of fast-food chain Simit Sarayi will open soon in Monastiraki, central Athens.

At the same time, Greek companies are trying to penetrate the very promising Turkish market. Clothing chain BSB is already present in the neighboring country, Nara Camicie is investing in the creation of a network of stores and last year the Fourlis group acquired the Intersport chain in Turkey. Even toy retailer Jumbo is considering its expansion to the Turkish market.

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