Hinchliffe acquires Torq jewellers

Stephen Hinchliffe, the Sheffield entrepreneur who has bought the Salisbury luggage stores and the Sock Shop chain in the past four months, yesterday extended his burgeoning retail empire.

His Salisbury Stores group acquired the Torq chain of jewellers from the receivers for an undisclosed sum. This gives Mr Hinchliffe a group of 350 stores with combined sales of £130m. He said he expected further acquisitions in the near future.

Mr Hichliffe said he was considering bringing the holding company to the stock market, possibly under a new name that reflects the group's breadth.

Torq has 69 stores and specialises in low-price "costume" jewellery and watches. Salisbury plans to turn it into an accessories store stocking hats, scarves and small leather goods as well as jewellery.

Mr Hinchliffe came to prominence as chairman of James Wilkes, a Sheffield engineering group. He resigned in 1992 during a hostile takeover by Petrocon and received £533,000 compensation for loss of office.

Mr Hinchliffe said: "I've enjoyed retailing and think the time is right in the cycle to be buying businesses. The more stores you have, the more contributions you have to one head office structure."

In 1984 Mr Hinchliffe paid Asda £20m for the Wades group of stores, selling them on at a profit three years later.

His return to the high street began last August, when he paid £3m for the loss-making Salisbury handbag and luggage stores, previously part of the Signet Group, the former Ratners jewellers. He bought Sock Shop from Murray Johnstone, its institutional owner, in October.

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