July 2, 2012, 10:28 AM

U.S. retailers get stamps in their passports

Walgreens, American Apparel and others make investments abroad.

Lead Photo

Walgreen Co. is buying a 45% stake in Alliance Boots GmbH, a European pharmacy and health products multichannel retailer. It is the first time America's largest drug store chain has invested in stores outside the United States, and it's not the only retailer in recent weeks that's announced global growth plans. Shoe manufacturer and retailer Crocs Inc. in June announced plans to expand e-commerce operations deeply into Europe, 1-800-Flowers Inc. announced an investment in Brazil, and American Apparel Inc. launched its first mobile e-commerce site ever in Japan.

Walgreens' $6.7 billion investment in Alliance Boots may only be phase one of Walgreens' growth overseas, as Walgreens also now has the option to buy the remaining 55% of Alliance Boots for an additional $9.5 billion after three years. In the United States, Boots sells its No7 and Botanics health and beauty brands in more than 1,750 Target stores and online at Target.com, in almost 450 Ulta Salon, Cosmetics and Fragrance Inc. stores and via Ulta.com, and at ShopBootsUSA.com. Those brands are also sold on drugstore.com and Beauty.com, which Walgreens acquired about a year ago for $429 million. In the United Kingdom, Boots generated an Internet Retailer-estimated 122 billion euros ($155 billion) in online sales last year.

Meanwhile Crocs European e-commerce director Adrian Pritchard says Crocs wants to take a bigger bite of Europe. The Niwot, Colo.-based company will launch e-commerce sites in Eastern and Central Europe this year, and in Russia in 2013. The company already operates 12 sites for consumers in Western Europe. Germany is the brand's largest e-commerce market in Europe, followed by France, the United Kingdom and Netherlands. Most of the functionality and testing of Crocs' European sites is controlled from the United States.

Japan and Latin America

American Apparel may make its T-shirts in Los Angeles, but says its first mobile commerce site is debuting in Japan because many teenagers there are already used to transacting on their mobile phones.

"The majority of teenagers in Japan actually use their mobile phones for apparel shopping," says Dov Charney, founder and CEO of American Apparel. "It was clear that this would be a great new way to serve our Japanese customers in a way that they've come to expect from other retailers." The company says a mobile-optimized site for U.S. consumers is coming soon.

Lastly, 1-800-Flowers announced it'd bought an approximate 32% stake in Brazilian online floral retailer Flores Online. 1-800-Flowers.com isn't saying much about what plans it has in mind for Brazil, but eBit, a Brazilian e-commerce consulting firm, predicts online sales there could grow by about 26% to an estimated $12.6 billion in 2012, from $10 billion in 2011.



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