North-East based Handbag Clinic, which buys, sells and restores designer handbags, has opened a new franchise in the Middle East after spotting a unique opportunity.

The firm has opened in Qatar after demand from women whose handbags were being ruined by black dye rubbing off from their traditional abayas robes.

Handbag Clinic’s latest store has opened in the Al Maamoura district, with a second shop due to open in Qatar’s latest luxury shopping destination, the Al Hazm Mall when construction on the centre is finished before Christmas.

Vito Cerabona, general manager of the Lerida Group which has taken on the franchise, said: “Female members of our ownership group came to us with a challenge; to find a company that could remove the black stains generated from an abaya onto their handbags.

“As all local ladies wear these black abayas, this staining is present on every bag, as the bag starts to brush on the black cloth.

“This, combined with the huge appetite for luxury handbags and shoes in Qatar started to paint a very attractive business opportunity for us.

“Research into available expertise led us to Handbag Clinic. We felt the connection to a trusted UK-based brand was essential, not only for the expertise and training they would provide, but also to serve as a comfort to the people of Qatar who know they are handing their expensive bags to a trusted and recognised brand.”

The new store has created seven new jobs, with another five members of staff due to be recruited when the second Qatari shop opens. The technical team in Qatar has undertaken intensive training at Handbag Clinic’s County Durham headquarters and will be travelling regularly to ensure skills are kept up-to-date.

Demand has already been high, even though many Qataris travel to cooler climes during the summer months.

Vito added: “The people of Qatar are so excited by our opening and delighted with the work that has been completed. The amount of bags some customers are bringing in is amazing. Some women have dropped off ten bags from their collection for cleaning and repairs and we’ve had a huge amount of exotic leather bags booked in.”

Ben Staerck, managing director of Handbag Clinic, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to have opened in Qatar. Our technicians here in the UK has been working hand-in-hand with those in Qatari to make sure they have all of the skills and expertise necessary to clean and repair bags from the world’s leading fashion houses.

“For us, it’s the perfect marriage. Many Qatari customers visit our Chelsea store during summer shopping trips to London. Now, they also have the opportunity to take their bags to Vito and his team in Qatar while they are at home.

“It’s been an incredibly exciting year so far for Handbag Clinic. Not only have we opened new stores in Islington and Leeds, but we’re now open in the Middle East, with a second Qatari store planned, and ambitious plans for the future.”

For further information, visit Handbag Clinic’s website at http://www.handbagclinic.co.uk.