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2023 WRAP UP Acquisitions and raising stakes


It has been another challenging year for retailers, 2023 saw continued supply chain issues, record-high inflation and low consumer confidence. For some it has resulted in the shutters coming down – Hunters, Paperchase and Wilko to name a few.

The Centre for Retail Research (CRR) estimates that there have been over 25,500 job losses this year, as a result of retailers going into administration. 

For some brands facing bankruptcy, it has been other high street giants that have stepped in. A developing trend that has been seen this year is a select few retailers still have the capital to invest in and even acquire other brands from administration. 

A prime example of this is catalogue classic turned multichannel fashion behemoth Next. While it has been buying other brands since 2008, when it took over Lipsy, this year has seen it save many UK retailers from administration, and take stakes in many more. 

When vintage lifestyle brand Cath Kidson fell into administration in March, Next snapped it up for a sum of £8.5mn. It went on to introduce the fashion and homeware brand to its Next Total Platform in June.

It also announced that another lifestyle brand it had acquired, Joules, would be launching on its site – and earlier than expected. As a result of progress made by its technology teams, Next brought forward the launch date to October, from its original deadline of March 2024.

October was a busy month for the retailer as it also purchased FatFace from its lenders for £115.2m. Next will hold 97% of the equity in the business, and FatFace’s management will hold 3%.

Additionally, Next holds shares in – Gap, JoJo Maman Bebe, Reiss and Victoria’s Secret.

It is also not just fashion brands that the retailer is interested in. At the end of November, Next opened its first store since buying the furniture brand out of administration a year ago. The Sheffield’s Meadowhall site is designed to offer customers the opportunity to browse a range of furniture and lighting, showcasing products in a variety of colours and finishes.

Frasers Group
At the end of 2022, Frasers Group – the owner of Sports Direct – agreed to buy 15 fashion brands from rival JD Sports. This deal included Liam Gallagher’s Pretty Green and 1980s brand Tessuti, and was estimated to be worth £47.5mn. Concluded in March this year, the deal saw Frasers take control of Topgrade Sportswear, including Get The Label.

Mike Ashley’s group has also spent 2023 upping its stakes in fast fashion. In October, Frasers raised its shares in Asos to 23%, it has also previously increased its shares in rival Boohoo to 15.1%

The group is also interested in white goods, in June Frasers acquired a 9% stake in electrical retailer Currys. This followed an increase in its stake in online electrical retailer AO World, from 19% to 21%.

Adding a little luxury to its offering, Frasers also has a 37% stake in accessories brand Mulberry. In May, it sought representation on the board. According to reports, Frasers wanted clarity from Mulberry on its operations in Asia. Mulberry is majority owned (56%) by Singapore’s Challice Group, which has backed the brand for more than 20 years.

Another high street giant raising the stakes this year is Marks & Spencer. In May, it provided further financial support to sustainable clothing brand Nobody’s Child. In 2021 M&S acquired a 27% stake in the brand, and this year provided fresh funding to support the eco-conscious fashion brand’s growth

Nobody’s Child is one of 60 under the Brands at M&S banner – others include Crew Clothing, Estée Lauder, Skechers and Toms. 

The company started selling third party brands on its website around two years ago, since then M&S has reported significant growth from customers searching for high-street names on its site. As a result, third party brand sales were up 50%.

M&S is also looking to sell beauty, sportswear and homeware brands on its website, as part of the growth, which could eventually report sales as high as £1bn.

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