French Connection puts 14 shops up for sale


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The Independent Online

The beleaguered fashion chain French Connection has put up the "for sale" sign outside 14 of its UK shops in large shopping centres across the UK.

Shops at locations including Birmingham's Bullring, the Metro Centre in Gateshead, Kent's Bluewater, London's Brent Cross and Essex's Lakeside are all up for grabs.

The brand, once famous for its FCUK branded T-shirts, has been struggling in recent years with City analysts and fashion gurus saying it has lost its way.

French Connection has hired property agent Ashley Phillips Lahaise to sell the leases of the 14 shops, which also include outlets in shopping centres in Reading, Watford and Kingston. It will only close the shops if another retailer takes over the leases.

French Connection, which has 71 shops in the UK and Ireland and 46 concessions in the UK and Europe, has fared better in emerging markets and plans 12 shops in China and 15 in India.

Its chief executive and chairman, Stephen Marks, is conducting a review of the business following the "most difficult winter season I have seen in all the years I have been in business".

Its UK and European retail business made a loss of £8.2m in the year to 31 January, while profits plunged 32 per cent to £5m.

As part of the review, it sold off its Nicole Farhi business last year.

French Connection shares, which hit 487p in 2004, closed down 0.25p to 42.75p.