Minneapolis-based marketing agency Black Retail has reached across the pond with the launch of its first international office in London.

Black Retail's Center for Retail Innovation is poised to provide consultation for international retailers that want to break into the American market and vice versa for U.S. companies that want to move into Europe. The satellite office will also be a resource of global insight.

"London is really a great, creative hothouse," Colleen Sullivan, Black's new European managing director, who heads the London practice, said in an interview. "It also ­geographically really makes a lot of sense to us. It's sort of a gateway to Europe and the world."

The London office is set up more as a consultancy at this point, said Sullivan, who has experience at marketing firm Edelman and brand communications agency Gabrielle Shaw Communications. Sullivan has a handful of staffers at CRI's space in London's Soho district.

America is seen as "the holy grail" for retailers but traditionally it has not been an easy market for international brands to crack, Sullivan said.

Now with more technology and the prevalence of digital media, American customers are more accessible to international companies, she said.

Black already has some U.S. clients that have retail groups in Europe so it hopes the new London office will serve as an operational ­center for them.

A large focus of the office is to study international retail markets and share emerging trends with existing clients, Sullivan said.

"Retail is now changing so fast that it seemed to us that it is absolutely imperative to get moving now," she said.

Black Retail provides brand strategy, advertising and other marketing ­services for retailers such as Wal-Mart, J.C. Penney and Best Buy.

"This U.K. presence heralds a new chapter for Black Retail, and is paramount to our plan for global expansion," said Tina Wilcox, chief executive of Black Retail, in a statement. "It brings Black closer to a wealth of international opportunities, and provides a platform for our expanded strategic capabilities."

Twitter: @nicolenorfleet