Jack Wills make £9.72m loss as owners prepare for sale


Preppy fashion store Jack Wills has posted a £9.72m pre-tax loss in the year to February 3 as it overhauls its business ahead of a possible sale or float.

Owners Peter Williams and Robert Shaw, who set the company up 14 years ago with just £40,000, are preparing for a sale or initial public offering of more than £500m in the next three to six years, supplying them with a windfall of at least £350m according to the Financial Times ( July 15).

Williams and Shaw still own 70 per cent of the company and private equity group Inflexion own 27 per cent. Sales from continuing operations have risen from £113.8m to £122.9m.

The company maintain its confidence “that the business will return to the levels of profitability previously delivered.”

Sales from discontinued operations Aubin & Wills were £10.2m but it made an operating loss of £1.28m and there was a £2.61m exceptional charge for shutting down the brand, including the closure of its 13 stores.

Wendy Becker, former Vodafone marketing boss, joined the company as chief operating officer in September.

Since starting the role, she has closed down the Aubin & Wills sub-brand and reinforced the company‘s management team with appointments including a new finance director and new retail, international, digital, marketing and merchandising directors. Becker said the changes positioned the brand for future growth as well as a possible deal.

She added: “I have been brought in to create a large global brand and to maximise the value of this business for a transaction that will certainly happen at some point in a three to six year timeframe.”

The company‘s net debt has more than doubled from £1.51m to £3.93m when the retailer took on borrowings to fund the new stock management system.

The business made £3.32m of pre-tax profit in the same period last year.

In its last financial year, Jack Wills opened six standalone stores, including two in the US, and two franchised stores in the Middle East and expects to open another two to four stores this year.