New co-owners for Jack Wills after 41% drop in profits

British fashion retailer Jack Wills now has a new parent company after a fall in full-year profits prompted it to be sold.

Last month, Union Lifestyle Limited acquired 100 per cent of the share capital of the Jack Wills Group.

The joint shareholders of Union Lifetsyle are BlueGem Capital Partners – owners of London department store Liberty – and Peter Williams, the founder and current chief executive of Jack Wills.

BlueGem and Williams became the new joint shareholders after buying out Inflexion, a long-standing investor of Jack Wills.

RELATED: Jack Wills chair Lord Davies could depart as part of new deal

“The transaction with BlueGem is very exciting and the new capital allows us to continue our international expansion and fast paced revival,” Williams said.

“BlueGem have a proven track record of building successful partnerships with premium British brands such as Liberty of London.”

The transaction sees Lord Mervyn Davies step down as the retailer‘s non-executive chairman, replaced by Derek Lovelock from Mamas and Papas.

The acquisition by Union Lifestyle comes as Jack Wills recorded a 41.4 per cent drop in full-year EBITDA to £5.1 million compared to £8.7 million the previous year.

However, the company insists that financial results for the year to January 31 saw a “notable improvement” since Williams returned as chief executive in August last year. 

It said its turnover was up by 4.1 per cent to £137.4 million compared to £132 million the previous year.

RELATED: Jack Wills announces redundancies

Jack Wills said the performance in the first half of the full-year period was impacted by a decision in September 2014 to outsource its distribution operations to an external logistics provider, which continued to disrupt the business well into the first half of 2016.

The company subsequently decided to bring the operation back in-house and it said all previous issues “have now been resolved”.

In addition, four new Jack Wills stores opened during the year and five others were refurbished, bringing the total of wholly-owned stores to 81 – 66 of which are in the UK, eight in the US, five in Hong Kong and one each in Singapore and Macau.

The retailer plans to open 13 new stores by the full year ending January 2017. 

“The underlying financial health of Jack Wills is strong,” Williams said.

“The performance of the business during 2015/16 shows a real year of two halves with a dramatic improvement in profitability in the second half. 

“The numbers clearly show that momentum has returned and significant results are being delivered.

“This improvement in trading has continued into the first half of the current year.” 

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