The upmarket fashion chain Reiss, said to be a favourite of the Duchess of Cambridge, reported that sales jumped by a fifth over the Christmas period as its private equity owner begins seeking a buyer for the group.
Bucking the gloom on the high street, Reiss said global sales were up 18% in the seven weeks to 18 January 2020, while in the UK they rose 15%.
The store group was founded in 1971 by David Reiss, who took over a single gentleman’s outfitters in London’s Bishopsgate run by his father in 1971 and built it into an international empire. In 2016, he banked a £100m-plus windfall after selling a majority stake to the American private equity firm Warburg Pincus, which valued the business at the time at £230m.
Warburg hired the retail executive Christos Angelides, who was previously head of buying and design at Next and then president of Abercrombie & Fitch in the US, to breathe fresh life into the chain. While other upmarket retailers such as Karen Millen, Coast and Austin Reed have fallen into administration, Reiss has expanded internationally.
Warburg has now approached investment bank Rothschild to explore options for the sale of the group, which has 82 standalone stores and 104 department store concessions.
Angelides said: “We are pleased that Reiss has performed strongly over the Christmas period, which is a continuation of the momentum we have seen throughout the whole of 2019.
“Looking ahead, as we start the new year, I am encouraged by the early sell-through of our spring/summer collections and the continued expansion of our business internationally.”
Reiss reported profits of £19.3m in the year to February 2019, up from £15.9m the year before, with analysts pencilling in a jump to nearly £30m when it reports again in April.
It is believed that any sale of Reiss is more likely to be to a trade buyer rather than a stockmarket flotation. But it will join a crowded market for sales of retail groups, with the South African company behind Poundland currently seeking more than £3.5bn for its stores across the UK and Eastern Europe.
A large stake in fashion retailer New Look, the frozen foods group Iceland and the gym chain Virgin Active – all part of another South African investment vehicle, Brait – is also understood to be up for sale.
Meanwhile, Travis Perkins, the builders merchants, is hoping to demerge its Wickes retail business in a deal expected to be completed by early summer. The group said it wants to streamline and focus on its trade business.