That’s one way to get a department store exclusive. The Australian fashion industry is abuzz with speculation that Australian department store chain Myer is in talks to acquire the sass & bide brand for about $70 million Australian, or $71.33 million. While parties at Myer, sass & bide and sass & bide’s equity partners Daniel Besen and David Briskn all declined comment, a source close to Besen said it was “a 95 percent done deal.”

 

While this would represent Myer’s first acquisition since going public in November 2009, in recent years the retailer has launched a number of diffusion lines in partnership with some of Australasia’s best-known fashion brands, including Wayne Cooper and New Zealand’s Karen Walker, with similar new deals said to be in development. Myer has also already acquired outright several brands, including Australian childrenswear line Milly & Jack and, according to sources, recently tested standalone retail concepts for some of its private label lines. “It doesn’t completely surprise me,” said one retail analyst of the mooted sass & bide buyout.

 

“The acquisition of brands similar to that is fairly consistent with what Myer want to do with their exclusive brand strategy,” said Credit Suisse retail analyst Grant Saligari.

 

Founded by Sarah-Jane Clarke and Heidi Middleton in 1999, originally as a street stall selling customized jeans at London’s Portobello Market, sass & bide has evolved into one of Australia’s best-known fashion exports, showing at New York and London Fashion Weeks. The company operates 14 boutiques between Australia and New Zealand. In March 2009, at a time when the company boasted an estimated $25 million Australian, or $25.5 million, in sales, Middleton and Clarke sold a stake to Besen and Briskin in exchange for a $1.5 million Australian, or $1.5 million, loan. “I think this brand’s got enormous potential internationally – I think it could be a A$50million-plus [$50.9 million-plus] brand within two-three years” Briskin told WWD that month.

 

The news comes four days before Myer rival David Jones is due to stage a Sydney media event to unveil its Autumn/Winter 2011 fashion collections, which include its top performing – and hitherto department store exclusive brand – sass & bide.

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