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Whistles acquired by Foschini Group

Lauretta Roberts
25 March 2016

Premium high street brand Whistles has been acquired by South African group Foschini for an undisclosed sum. Chief executive Jane Shepherdson will retain her 20% stake and continue to run the business.

Rumours of a sale of Whistles emerged earlier this month with Foschini, which last year acquired another British womenswear brand Phase Eight, cited as the forerunner to buy the business. Whistles was previously owned by Shepherdson and Icelandic investor Mundur who refinanced the businesss in 2009 after the original investor Baugur, who backed Shepherdson's purchase of the business from Aurora Fashions in 2008, collapsed.

The Whistles business comprises 46 stores, 76 concessions and an e-store. It added menswear in 2014 and its latest available accounts show sales of £63m and a loss of £2.4m, which was attributed to the launch of menswear and expansion into the US.

Shepherdson, who prior to Whistles had made her name heading up the Topshop brand, has transformed the business since she led the buyout. It now offers design-led contemporary pieces at accessible price points and is viewed by many as the destination for fashion-conscious women when they have outgrown young fashion stores.

Whistled began life as a multi-brand directional boutique in 1976 under its original owner Lucille Lewin, who sold it in 2002. Under Aurora, now known as Fresh Channel and which at that time also owned Coast, Karen Millen, Oasis and Warehouse, its own brand was developed but it still sold third-party brands. Shepherdson has since focused on own-brand and given the store a more contemporary, sharper edge.

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