Bag maker Radley plans rapid rollout of new stores

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The Independent Online

Radley, the handbag maker put on the block last month by its private equity owners Phoenix, is planning an ambitious expansion, including its first store in Dubai and 10 more stores in the UK within the next three years.

Phoenix Equity Partners hired PricewaterhouseCoopers to conduct a strategic review this summer, which could include a sale of its 55 per cent stake in the firm. However, sale plans may be shelved given the current climate in the financial markets. Phoenix bought the stake 18 months ago for £45m, but it is now thought to be worth £150m.

The management team, who own the rest of the business, intend to stay on to continue with the growth plans for the business.

The company, which currently operates from two stores in London, one on the King's Road and a second on Floral Street in Covent Garden, is set to open a third store in the capital later this year and another is planned for Manchester.

Roger Best, the chief executive, said: "The whole strategy since Phoenix was to take what was a phenomenally successful product and build it up both in the UK and internationally. We are still at the early stages of that. There's still a lot to do to raise the profile of the brand in the UK. We want to create a truly international iconic brand."

The company, whose handbags usually sell for between £120 and £175, recently launched a premium range entitled the London line, which retails from £225 to £375.

Nick Vance, the marketing director, described Radley "as a young, dynamic, new kind of business". He said: "We are trying to have a sense of humour about the brand."

The company is also set to launch a website next month and will be revitalising its Tula brand.

Mr Best said the company had not been affected by the consumer slowdown, which had weakened sales for other retailers.

"It hasn't affected us one iota," he said. "We still have a strong order book. Certainly in terms of our customers, we are not seeing any changes."

Radley's founder, the Australian-born Lowell Harder, started out in 1984 by selling unusual looking bags she had sourced from India at Camden Market at weekends. She went on to design her own bags and briefcases, which were all manufactured in India, and they soon came to the attention of the department store chain John Lewis and other retailers.

Ms Harder developed the range under the name of Radley with a West Highland terrier logo. Five years ago, she staged a management buyout of her initial backer, the bag company Tula, and became its creative director. The company was renamed Radley when Phoenix bought its stake. Radley generated around £ 9m of earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation from sales of about £50m in the year to April. This year revenues are expected to hit £60m.