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Wal-Mart, as promised, has opened its first two stand-alone George clothing stores in the UK. The first store to open for business was a single-floor outlet in Albion Street, Leeds, trading from around 11,500 sq. ft., with the second opening in the Whitgift Shopping Centre in the London suburb of Croydon. The Croydon store trades from more than 9,500 sq. ft. over two floors, with an entrance from the shopping centre on the upper floor and an entrance from a busy high street on the lower level.

The lower floor hosts the bulk of the store's womenswear collection, comprising leisurewear, workwear and a modest jewellery collection. There are seven fitting rooms on this floor, together with several checkouts, enabling high street shoppers to select their chosen items, try them on, pay for them and leave the store without having to advance to the upper floor.

The first floor, linked to the lower level by a pair of escalators, is accessible from the shopping centre and is much larger than the downstairs shopping area. It hosts a wide variety of product ranges, including lingerie, footwear, menswear, childrenswear, teen ranges and maternity wear, and also houses several changing rooms and a bank of checkouts.

Dotted throughout the store are highlighted areas that house the new premium George Collection - a range of more upmarket men's and women's fashions intended to compete with the likes of Next.

The Croydon store is an impressive effort by Wal-Mart, hardly surprising given that Wal-Mart is a company that, if it decides to do something, it usually decides to do it properly. The unit is more coherent and stylish than many George departments within Asda supermarkets and manages to convey its extremely competitive price message - adult jeans for the equivalent of about $8 (US) - whilst maintaining a pleasant mid-market ambience. This will stand it in good stead against fellow discounters such as Primark and Peacocks and will also challenge more upmarket players such as Next and Top Shop. Its impact will be particularly strong in childrenswear (where George is already the market leader in volume terms) and will cause businesses such as Adams and Woolworths a fair degree of discomfort if the standalone George concept is rolled out across the UK.
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