South Africa’s Foschini Group has just bought Whistles, the UK high street fashion chain for an undisclosed amount including 46 stores and its online business. This follows on from their British acquisition of Phase Eight last year.
Whistles was originally launched as a women’s fashion brand in 1976. In 2008 Jane Shepherdson, formerly of Topshop, joined as Chief Executive and repositioned it as a trendy “Topshop for grownups”, targeting younger customers. Shepherdson has kept her 20% stake and will continue to run the business after the sale.
Whistles’ fans include the Duchess of Cambridge and Samantha Cameron and its clothes are stocked by Bloomingdale’s in the US and Harrods in the UK. Foschini said it wanted to expand the company, which added a menswear range in 2014, into new markets.
This follows the trend of South African retailers investing in British and European companies to reduce their reliance on the fluctuating South African Rand. Truworths bought Office, the UK shoe chain, for £256m in December 2015. Pepkor, South Africa’s biggest retailer, launched Pep & Co in 2015 - a discount clothing chain with 50 stores proposed for the UK – going up against the likes of Primark and Matalan. Christo Wiese, South Africa’s fourth richest man, and a major shareholder in Pepkor, also bought a majority stake in New Look for £780m in June last year – and bought Richard Branson's Virgin Active Gyms for £682m!
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Photo source - Whistles