JoJo Maman Bébé has new owners after a deal involving both retailer Next and private equity finance. The partners in the deal – which comes at a time when the nature of brand retailing is changing quickly – envisage growth across its channels, and in the UK and abroad.
Next has invested £16.3m in cash to take a 44% stake in the retailer, which sells clothing and related items for babies and young children, while investment funds and vehicles managed or advised by Davidson Kempner Capital Management now own 56% of the company. Laura Tenison, who founded JoJo Maman Bébé in 1993, is leaving the business, having informed staff on Thursday. JoJo commercial director Gwynn Milligan has taken over as chief executive and its other directors are set to stay in post.
Tenison says: “Growing JoJo from a kitchen table start-up to being the UK’s leading specialist boutique mother and baby brand has been my priority for the past 30 years. I’m exceptionally proud of our achievements, and excited by the opportunities this new partnership will offer to the brand’s future.”
Under new ownership, the retailer expects to continue to trade through its 87 shops and website. No immediate redundancies are expected from its workforce of around 950 people. More shops may be opened in the UK and Ireland, while international websites may be launched. The business is also expected to migrate to the Next Total Platform in the medium-term, although that is thought to be at least two seasons away, in mid-2023.
Next step for brand strategy
The deal fits with Next’s strategy of investing in the retailers who join its Total Platform business, which handles all aspects of trading online from website design and management to fulfilment. JoJo will use Next’s platform on a commission basis and will also be able to use its economy of scale to source products.
Simon Wolfson, chief executive of Next, says: “Next is delighted at the prospect of its Total Platform supporting JoJo on the next stage of its growth and development. We are excited to see what can be achieved through the combination of JoJo’s exceptional product with Next’s infrastructure and Davidson Kempner as our investment partner.”
Wolfson said in Next’s recent full-year results that it has started to evolve from retailer into online aggregator at a time when the retail industry has changed quickly during the Covid-19 pandemic. It is developing more of its own brands while working with a growing number of third-party brands who use its Total Platform operation to manage their ecommerce and even multichannel businesses in full. For example, it is operating the Victoria’s Secret and Gap brands in the UK and Ireland both online and in-store, and has taken an equity stake in their UK franchises.
Next is ranked Leading in RXUK Top500 research, while JoJo Maman Bébé is Top50.