Hobbs sale looks unlikely as finance director departs

 

The finance director of Hobbs is leaving the fashion retailer, dampening speculation that the private-equity-backed chain will be put up for sale in the near future.

Loraine Woodhouse is joining the John Lewis Partnership (JLP), the group behind the eponymous department store and Waitrose, as corporate finance director in October.

Hobbs, whose chief executive is Nicky Dulieu, hired advisers at the accountancy firm PwC last year, which set tongues wagging about whether it was being prepared for a £200m-plus sale in early 2014.

While it is unclear how much, if any, equity Ms Woodhouse held in Hobbs, finance directors typically get a handsome payout when companies are sold and her exit suggests she did not see such a scenario materialising for some time. Hobbs competes with chains such as Marks & Spencer, Jaeger, Phase Eight and LK Bennett, with speculation also linking the latter to a possible auction process next year.

Ms Woodhouse will report to Helen Weir, the finance director of JLP, and will help shape the group’s financial, insurance and pension investment strategy. London-listed 3i acquired Hobbs for £111m in 2004 from Barclays Private Equity, in a deal financed by about £75m of debt.

The retailer, which also owns the NW3 and Hobbs Invitation fashion labels, posted a 1.3 per cent rise in underlying earnings to £15.2m over the year to 26 January 2013, on increased sales of £125.1m. Hobbs got a further boost this summer when the heavily pregnant Duchess of Cambridge wore a £169 mac.

Having turned around its performance, the fashion chain plans to launch in China, with an initial opening planned for Hong Kong.

In June, Ms Dulieu said: “China has now come higher up the agenda. We are understanding what the appeal is in China. Entry luxury has huge appeal with the rising middle class and it feels like the best possible time for our brand coupled with a refresh.”

Hobbs, which already delivers to more than 50 countries, is also rolling out dedicated, local-language websites overseas, including in Germany.

Separately, Paul Sweetenham, the former chief executive of the failed fashion chain Republic, is joining the Italian footwear giant Bata next month. Mr Sweetenham, who has also been the head of TK Maxx in Europe, is taking up the role of European president at Bata.

Founded in 1894, Bata has more than 30,000 staff, 5,000 retail stores, and a presence in over 70 countries.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Guru Careers: Tax Manager / Accountant

£35 - £50k DOE: Guru Careers: A Tax Manager / Accountant (ACA / CA / CTA) is n...

Ashdown Group: Contracts Executive - City of London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Contracts Executive - Cit...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Recruitment Genius: Call Centre Debt Collector - Multiple Roles

£21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen