TFG Hobbs buy boosts Whistles owner's UK presence

The Foschini Group (TFG) is boosting its presence in the UK and international fashion sector with news that it will buy Hobbs, the middle market womenswear retailer.


Hobbs


The acquisitive South African firm already owns Whistles and Phase Eight, among other fashion names, and Hobbs CEO Meg Lustman said the deal would help the brand to become a "truly successful international and omnichannel brand".

She added: “This acquisition represents a further step on our journey… With TFG’s existing experience managing desirable brands, and their deep understanding of the sector, we are thrilled with today’s announcement and their commitment to assist us to drive our future growth.”

Hobbs was one of a number of UK brands up for sale this year but there were questions over how successful the auction would be given the weak state of the British fashion retail sector at present. 

The company was put on the market nearly a year ago with a price tag of £80 million and TFG is reported to have made an approach to private equity owner 3i during the summer.

Whether 3i achieved its asking price hasn’t been disclosed but TFG is known as a company that strikes a hard bargain. 

So why was it interested in a brand that had faced challenges in recent periods after an attempt to add more trend-led pieces backfired? Well, its latest results showed that its performance is improving. And TFG’s global CEO Doug Murray said that “Hobbs is a well-established British brand with a loyal customer base and an excellent reputation for the design and retail of high quality clothing and footwear.”

Meanwhile TFG UK CEO Ben Barnett praised Lustman’s work in turning Hobbs around saying she “and her team have successfully repositioned and reinvigorated the brand, offering an excellent platform for further growth.”
He also said that as well as growing in the UK, the company wants to leverage its international presence through its own stores, its concessions and web presence. 

The company has 140 UK standalones and concessions and is also present in US and German department stores.
While its sales and profits rose in the year to January, we’ve had no word on trading so far this year.

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