Two of the British high street’s most recognisable names are reported to be in talks over a possible sale. Jigsaw is said to have held talks with advisers (though not advisers have been formally appointed) over a sale or a possible float of a majority or minority stake of the business, while South African group Foschini (which also owns Phase Eight) is believed to be circling Whistles.
Jigsaw was founded in 1972 by John and Belle Robinson and is headed up by CEO Peter Ruis, who joined the business in 2013 from John Lewis. Since Ruis came on board the business has seen an uptick in performance and last year its holding company posted profits of £5.4m on sales of £89m.
According to a report in the Sunday Times, Jigsaw, which sells womenswear, menswear and kidswear, is now worth around £50m. It runs more than 100 stores or concessions nationwide as well as its e-store, and it also owns high-end multibrand concept store The Shop at Bluebird.
Whistles which is headed up by Jane Shepherdson, who made her name as brand director of Topshop, has 49 stores and 76 concessions nationwide. According to The Telegraph its latest available accounts show sales up 9% at £63m with a loss of £2.4m following investments in launching the US, adding menswear (which launched in 2014) and spending more than £400,000 on a show at London Fashion Week.
South African group Foschini, which last year acquired Phase Eight from private equity firm Towerbrook is believed to be interested in purchasing Whistles. But is not clear whether any deal would involve a minority or majority stake.
Shepherdson relaunched Whistles in 2008 having led a buy-out (back by Icelandic group Baugur) from its previous owners Aurora Fashions (now known as Fresh Channel) the owner of Coast and Oasis. Following the subsequent collapse of Baugur, the business was refinanced a year later.
Whistles was founded in 1976 by Lucille Lewin (who sold it in 2002). It began life as a directional multi-brand boutique but under Shepherdson it has been reborn as a mono-brand store offering design-led, contemporary clothes at an accessible price point.