Bridgepoint pays £100m for HobbyCraft stores

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The Independent Online

Hobbycraft, the out-of-town arts and crafts retailer, has been sold to the private equity firm Bridgepoint in a management buyout for more than £100m.

The bidding process for the 47-store chain was hotly contested and attracted keen interest from parties such as the private equity firms Blackstone, TA Associates and Exponent, which helped drive up the price from its initial level of around £75m.

The chain was put up for sale this year by the Haskins family, who owned most of the shares and opened the first store outside Bournemouth in 1995. HobbyCraft, which sells more than 35,000 products including wedding stationery and haberdashery, boomed during the downturn as consumers rediscovered "make do and mend".

Bridgepoint said it could comfortably add another 100 HobbyCraft stores over the next five years, as well as improve its distribution and sourcing activities, and expand its e-commerce services.

Jason McGibbon, at Bridgepoint, which also owns the retailer Fat Face and the sandwich chain Prêt a Manger, said: "We have tracked its progress for some time and believe there is now significant scope for the business not only to grow through further roll-out in the UK ... but also to create a significant multi-channel online presence."

In its latest published accounts, HobbyCraft delivered a 42 per cent uplift in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation to £7.5m for the year to 22 February 2009. Profits are thought to have increased again for the financial year just finished and are tipped for further growth this year.

Chris Crombie, the chief executive of HobbyCraft, who is remaining at the chain, said: "We have always been very ambitious for HobbyCraft and have developed the business to become the leading specialist in the field."