By Candice Krieger
October 3, 2008
How refreshing - albeit it slightly strange - it was to learn this week that Next, the high street and catalogue retailer, has bought Lipsy, a fashion brand for young women, for £17.4m.
Now I don't claim to be a fashionista , but Next, headed by Simon Wolfson, needed to do something to improve its Next-appeal among younger shoppers.
Last month, it reported a drop in like-for-like sales of six per cent over the six months to July, and seems to do homewear better than it does clothes. Admittedly, I would not have paired Next with Lipsy - think salmon-wrap blouse over bubble-hem corset dress - but business is business.
The addition of Lipsy, which counts Prince William's girlfriend Kate Middleton and TV presenters Holly Willoughby and Alexa Chung among its fans, should help accelerate the high street chain's development into a leading younger women's brand. That is certainly the plan.
Lipsy was founded six years ago by husband and wife team Jeremy and Marcelle Stakol, who owned 25 per cent of the business and took £3.5m from the deal. It boasts annual turnover of £20m and its clothes are sold through several major retailers including Top Shop, House of Fraser and Selfridges, in addition to the internet.
Besides, there is no intention that Lipsy should cease supplying its products to existing customers, nor is there any intention to sell Lipsy products in Next stores. Probably best.
While Next's multi-million pound acquisition may raise some eyebrows among fellow retailers, who are preparing to tighten their belts in the wake of the credit crisis, the move is a brave one and should be welcomed by the industry - and females across the UK.