Facia in talks to buy chain

NIGEL COPE

Facia, the rapidly expanding retail group run by Stephen Hinchliffe, has confirmed that it is in talks to buy a mid-market womenswear chain. Initial speculation suggested the target could be Wallis, part of Sears, or Dorothy Perkins, part of Burton. However, it is believed that Wallis is not for sale and Burton said on Friday that it had not received any approaches for the Dorothy Perkins fashion chain.

Sears is under pressure to rationalise its huge portfolio of shops and has several womenswear formats, including Miss Selfridge, Richards and Warehouse. Richards is now improving after a period of difficulties and may be a Facia target.

Mr Hinchliffe has made no secret of his desire to add a womenswear chain to his disparate group of holdings. Last month he concluded a deal with Sears to buy more than 200 of the Freeman Hardy Wills and Manfield shoe shops. In the last year he has embarked on a headlong expansion programme, buying Salisbury luggage shops, Sock Shop, Oakland menswear, Contessa lingerie and Torq jewellers.

It is assumed that Mr Hinchliffe is grooming Facia for a stock market float, although he says he is in no rush.

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