FJ Benjamin signs deal for Raoul franchise in Sri Lanka

FJ Benjamin has inked a franchise agreement to open the first standalone Raoul store in Colombo, Sri Lanka, this December, just two months after it sealed a similar deal in China.

The franchisee, White Lotus Fashions, is owned by Sri Lankan entrepreneur Rayynor Silva, the chairman of Asia Broadcasting Corporation, which operates some of the country's radio stations and one television channel. He also has interests in hotels and properties.

The agreement is for an initial five years, with an additional three-year renewal option.

Douglas Benjamin, the chief operating officer of FJ Benjamin Holdings, said: "This franchise agreement will give Raoul first-mover advantage in a country where the market for luxury fashion is still at a nascent stage, with very few quality brands available for the discerning, fashion-conscious shopper."

FJ Benjamin secured a franchise deal - its first major one for Raoul - with Anderson Wang's Budy (Chongqing) Import & Export Trading Co in May. Under this deal, it will open 27 stores across China by 2017, with the first one raising its shutters in Chongqing in mid-September.

The deal is for an initial five-year period with an option for renewal.

A Maybank Kim Eng report dated May 8 cited Mr Wang as having helmed franchises with Porsche Design and Georg Jensen.

FJ Benjamin has said that it plans to scale up its retail network to 210 stores by the end of its fiscal year ended June 30, from 191 a year ago.

A slowdown in demand for timepieces in China, reduced tourist spending in Hong Kong and cautious consumer spending in South-east Asia caused FJ Benjamin's earnings to tumble to $417,000, from $3.5 million a year ago in its fiscal third quarter ended March 31. Turnover dipped 3 per cent year-on-year to $92.6 million.

Raoul is one of two in-house brands for the FJ Benjamin Group, the other being Catherine Deane. The group also distributes fashion and timepiece brands such as Givenchy, Banana Republic, Gap and Guess.

Its shares last closed at $0.26 on Wednesday.