Established in 1999 as a single shop in the seaside town of Salcombe, Jack Wills is a British preppy lifestyle brand. Known for its heritage-inspired wardrobe classics, Jack Wills epitomises a carefree and youthful spirit. Founders, Peter Williams and Alejandro Wills, opened at 22 Fore Street, Salcombe with £40,000 start-up capital - they slept above the shop.
The brand was named after one of the co-founders' grandparents. Today, Jack Wills operates more than 100 stores worldwide, including five stores in Hong Kong and two in Singapore.
Williams left the firm in 2013 only to return in 2016 in partnership with private equity house BlueGem Capital to buy it back from long-term investor Inflexion. However Williams and BlueGem fell out over strategy and he left again in 2018 to be replaced by Suzanne Harlow, formerly of Debenhams.
The business struggled in a turbulent retail environment and as its branded clothing fell out of favour. Despite further cash injections from BlueGem, the business floundered and was put up for sale.
Mike Ashley's Sports Direct won the race to buy it seeing off a rival bid from retail tycoon Philip Day of Edinburgh Woollen Mill. The business was acquired in a pre-pack deal for just £12.75m. Sports Direct pledged in August 2019 to keep as many stores open as possible but warned that some carry "extortionate rents" so closures are expected. The international business was not part of the deal.