Founders of Fenn Wright Manson put up for-sale sign

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The Independent Online

The founders of Fenn Wright Manson have put the womenswear retailer up for sale after 36 years.

Advisers to Fenn Wright Manson, which has 12 standalone shops in the UK and 63 concessions, including overseas, sent out a sales memorandum to potential investors last week.

The retailer's three founders, Colin Fenn, Trevor Wright and Glynn Manson, are understood to be seeking to sell their shares, which would net them a lucrative pay out.

As Fenn Wright Manson is profitable and is expanding, the business is expected to attract substantial interest from small to mid-sized private equity firms. One said: "It is a nice business – we are interested."

Fenn Wright Manson, which has concessions in department stores including John Lewis and House of Fraser, is the latest retailer to put itself up for sale this year.

Pets at Home, the retailer of pet food and accessories, and Hobbycraft, the arts-and-craft specialist, have been sold to private equity firms, while Office, Sir Tom Hunter's shoe chain, was put on the market this month.

Fenn Wright Manson delivered operating profit of £1.46m for the year to 31 January 2009, down marginally on the £1.64m delivered the previous year, according to its latest accounts at Companies House. Based on a potential price tag of ten times earnings and accounting for a recent improvement in profits, Fenn Wright Manson could be sold for between £15m and £20m, or more.

Fenn Wright Manson grew its total sales by 8 per cent to £23.3m in the year to January 2009 and its performance has improved since then.

The latest annual report said: "The new financial period [from 1 February 2009] has performed well with an encouraging increase in like-for-like sales, despite a gloomy market." The retailer said four new stores were planned in the half year since January 2010. The retailer, which also has a wholesale business, said its launch of a fashion range for petite women last autumn had been "successful". Fenn Wright Manson did not return calls.

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