Brentfords buyer insists on a clean sheet

NIGEL COPE

One of the best-known and least loved names of 1970s retailing is to disappear from the high street. Brentfords, the former Brentford Nylons business, was sold at a knock-down price yesterday, and the new owner does not think the name is worth having.

The stores, which never shrugged off the image of electro-statically charged sheets and an advertising campaign starring the disc jockey Alan Freeman, have been sold to Roseby's, a Rotherham-based curtain and household goods retailer.

Michael Rosenblatt, chief executive of Rosebys, said: "Our research showed that the stores' main weak point was the name. People would sooner be seen with a plain white carrier than a Brentfords bag."

Rosebys is buying 90 of the 140 Brentfords stores for pounds 4m from Lonrho, the mining conglomerate which is selling off peripheral businesses.

As the stock in the shops is worth pounds 6m, it means Lonrho is essentially paying Rosebys to take Brentfords off its hands.

Rosebys, which now has 202 stores, plans to broaden the stores' range, adding curtains and other household goods to the traditional Brentfords fare of sheets, blankets and towels.

Lonrho is likely to close the remaining Brentfords shops, while Rosebys will re-format the 90 it has bought under its own name by the beginning of 1998.

It has taken decades for the Brentfords name finally to go the way of the striped tank-top and the drip-dry shirt. Lonrho bought Brentford Nylons from the receiver in 1976. It fitted with the company's textile interests.

The stores enjoyed their heyday in the 1970s when nylon sheets were popular, but soon lost favour in the more design-conscious 1980s. The name was later changed simply to Brentfords but the business could never shrug off its downmarket image. The 90 stores made a loss of pounds 2.3m last year.

Yesterday Lonrho, which is being reshaped after the departure of the buccaneering Tiny Rowland, said there was an inherent conflict in the company's position as a manufacturer and retailer of textiles.

In the end, Brentford Nylons will always be remembered for two things: uncomfortable bed clothes and the Alan Freeman advertising campaign. Richard Perks of Verdict Research, said: "The Nylons part of the name always lingered and it was always synonymous with nasty, sweaty sheets. It will not be mourned."

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