LONDON — South Africa’s Foschini Group said Thursday it has purchased a substantial majority stake in Whistles, the British fashion chain that sells contemporary collections for men and women.
The acquisition will provide “significant investment” for Whistles and opportunities for the brand to continue to develop its online presence, grow its retail portfolio and accelerate international expansion, Foschini said.
Financial terms were not disclosed. The acquisition comes at a moment of opportunity for high street brands such as Whistles, with the contemporary category growing rapidly and the fashion consumer eager for the rapid, regular deliveries of in-season products.
“Whistles is a brand that we have long admired, and for which we believe there is a significant global opportunity for growth. We look forward to working with the team to further develop the brand,” said Doug Murray, chief executive officer of Foschini.
The South African retail specialist counts more than 2,700 stores and 20 brands across lifestyle, clothing, jewelry, accessories, sporting goods and home wares. The company has been around since 1924 and has been listed on the JSE Limited stock exchange since 1941.
Whistles isn’t the Foschini Group’s only British high street holding. In early 2015, it purchased Phase Eight, the women’s clothing and accessories brand, from TowerBrook Capital Partners LP.
Whistles ceo Jane Shepherdson said she would “continue to build on the success of Whistles and take it to the next stage of its evolution.”
Separately on Friday, Whistles announced the opening of its first dedicated men’s wear store at 11 Boundary Street in London’s Shoreditch.
The contemporary men’s wear brand marked its first birthday last October with a pop-up store, also in Shoreditch. The new unit offers the full range, including footwear, accessories and collaborations, including one with the Japanese accessories and footwear brand Buddy, plus a limited-edition unisex collection of bags, sneakers and wallets.
Shepherdson took over as ceo of Whistles in 2008 after a long stint as brand director of Topshop, which she helped to build into one of the hottest international fast-fashion retailers.
Whistles entered the U.S. market in 2014, the same year it launched men’s wear. It has 46 standalone stores in the U.K. and is sold in department stores including Selfridges, Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Printemps and Bloomingdale’s.
According to the latest accounts filed at Companies House, the official registry of U.K. businesses, Whistles’ revenue in the 2014-15 fiscal year was 60.2 million pounds, or $98.7 million.
The company made a loss of just over $1 million pounds in the 12 months to Jan. 31 2015, due to one-off costs associated with the launch of its men’s wear collection; expansion into the U.S. market; and the re-platforming of the Web site. In the previous fiscal year, Whistles notched a profit of 1.9 million pounds, or $3.1 million pounds.
All figures have been converted at exchange rates for the periods to which they refer.