David Charlton’s first business, Fiori, which sold designer clothes, went into receivership in 1992. He had better luck when he focused on the other end of the market. A menswear retailer, The Officers Club, was launched from the ashes of Fiori with a single store in Newcastle. It now has 180 outlets across Britain. They target the cheaper end of the market by selling clothes similar to those available at River Island and Next, but at a 70% discount. Charlton keeps prices down by importing from Portugal, India, China and Vietnam. The company’s success has allowed it to fund an aggressive programme of acquisitions. Charlton bought 10 Fosters menswear stores in 1998, 16 Blakes menswear shops in 1999 and 65 Hamells ladieswear sites from C&A in March 2000. This has helped to drive up sales 70% a year from £10.6m in 1997 to £52m in 2000, when it employed 1,004 staff.
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