LONDON – Womenswear retailer New Look Group PLC has embarked on an earnest expansion drive with the purchase of 34 Littlewoods stores from Associated British Foods PLC in a deal worth in the region of £11 million.
The fashion chain which was taken private last year will utilize the additional space in expanding its menswear segment. This would also allow it to launch a full childrens- wear segment as well. “This sort of deal comes very, very rarely. The last time big space like this came on the market was when C&A; withdrew from the UK six years ago,” said Phil Wrigley, New Look’s chief executive. New Look, which started out with 1.6 million square feet of trading space in 2004, said that the deal would go a long way in helping it reach its target of 2.4 million square feet by March 2006.
The retailer completed this purchase yesterday from Associated British Foods – the owner of budget retailer Primark. ABF had purchased 120 Littlewoods stores in July and unloaded these 34 stores as they were seen as surplus to its requirements. ABF added that it would be selling another 40 Littlewoods stores. There were no details on who the purchaser of these stores was.
New Look operates 541 stores in the UK and 211 in France under its Mim brand.
The group’s founder and biggest shareholder, Tom Singh, took the group private 20 months ago. Apax and Permira had backed Singh in the deal. Earlier this year, their combined investment of £200 million was repaid in full. Analysts say that New Look could return to the stock markets in the next two years. However, the company itself has remained non-committal about this.