Retail fit-out specialist Styles & Wood is planning a push into the Middle East in an attempt to offset the economic slump in the UK

Last October Ivan McKeever, the company’s chief executive, said the group would break even in 2008. The result was blamed on a weakening in the market and undisclosed problems on earlier jobs.

The company has two staff in Dubai and turnover in the region accounts for about 0.5% of its estimated £230m total.

Finance director Graham Clark said: “It’s very early days and what we do is very small but obviously we’d like to see significant growth in the region.”

He declined to reveal turnover forecasts but when asked if its work in the Gulf could extend beyond the retail market, he said: “Anything is possible.”

Clark also said the company would consider working in other parts of the world but any move would be driven by its existing customers.

The company, which is due to report its 2008 results on 12 March, has struggled along with other contractors exposed to the retail sector.

Last July it announced 45 redundancies among its 300 staff. It was followed by Wates Interiors, which cut 20% of its 150-strong workforce in October.