Technology

BeijingSino-Con, a Chinese software development firm, recently signed an agreement with Arlington, Va.-based The Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) to integrate the American and Chinese construction industries online.

Sino-Con has spent four years developing China's online database for construction products and specifications. After tapping into China's wealth of industry expertise — 700,000 designers, 12,000 design organizations, 800,000 building products manufacturers, 110,000 standard designs for repetitive construction, and 750 construction codes and standards — the company says it's ready to publish the system and put it to use.

The new system is supported by China's Prime Minister of Construction, the Chinese Institute of Science and Technology, and the China State Construction Engineering Co., which is the seventh-largest construction firm in the world.

The Chinese construction market generates $171 billion per year and has an expected annual growth of 18.5%. Because the Chinese government signed an agreement with the American Institute of Architects in 1999, the database may soon contain many American construction industry contacts as well, according to CSI.

Retailer roundup

Hamilton, Ontario, Canada — Warrendale, Pa.-based American Eagle Outfitters opened its first branded store, named Braemar, in Canada. The hip apparel chain plans to open 46 units in three months. AE acquired the Braemar and Thrifty/Bluenotes chains from Toronto-based Dylex last year.

St. Etienne, France — French grocery retailer Casino recently approached Tansas — a food retailer controlling 25% of the Turkish market — regarding the possibility of a partnership or investment, according to www.just-food.com.

Småland, Sweden — Locally based furniture retailer IKEA plans to spend $143.8 million to expand in the United Kingdom, with stores opening in Sheffield and Southampton. The retailer is also adding a distribution center in Peterborough. According to IKEA, the company is preparing to build 20 stores in Britain within the decade.

“A store in Sheffield will cut down on journey times for customers who at the moment have to travel to our stores in Leeds and Nottingham,” says Goran Nilsson, managing director IKEA United Kingdom. Currently, the stylish furnishings merchant operates 10 stores and two distribution centers in the country.

IKEA is also constructing a new store in Glasglow, Scotland, expected to open in fall 2001 as well as the first Welsh store in Cardiff scheduled for a 2003 opening.

In related news, IKEA plans to invest $100 million in its Polish operations in the next two years and will add four more trendy furniture stores to the area by 2005. Poland now has eight IKEA shops.

Barcelona, Spain — By year's end, fashion clothier Mango will have stores in Italy, India and China, in addition to its homeland of Spain. The San Remo store was the retailer's first Italian location and plans to open five additional shops in Rome, Florence and Milan by 2002 are underway. Mango plans to open only one or two stores for the year in India and China.

The fashion retailer also opened its second German outlet in Zweibrucken — its largest outlet to date. The company currently operates 20 outlets in Austria, Spain, Israel and Germany.

Acquisitions

George Town, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands — A subsidiary of the Paris-based retailer Carrefour, Carrefour Argentina, recently acquired nearly 50% of the Norte-Tia supermarket chain from Exxel Group. Norte operates 139 markets across the country. The combination of the Carrefour hypermarkets, Norte supermarkets and Dia hard discount stores gives Carrefour Argentina a one-third share of the country's retail market. Though the price of the transaction has not been disclosed it sites a payment by Carrefour to Exxel in 1st quarter 2002.

Renovations

TokyoSeibu Department stores, part of locally based The Saison Group, will be spending $40.4 million, or five billion yen, in renovations on its store in the Shibuya district of Tokyo within the next three years. The renovation will include converting the food section currently in the basement of the store into a shoe department. According to company insiders, the Japanese retailer will be taking cues from its U.S. partner, Nordstrom.