Matalan to make men's underwear in Wolsey deal

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The Independent Online

Matalan, the discount retailer, has bought Wolsey, the knitwear and men's underwear producer that has a history dating back to the 18th century. The price was undisclosed but its believed to be about £10m.

Matalan, the discount retailer, has bought Wolsey, the knitwear and men's underwear producer that has a history dating back to the 18th century. The price was undisclosed but its believed to be about £10m.

One of the oldest textile firms in Britain, Wolsey can trace its history back to 1744 when Henry Wood started trading as a hosier in Leicester, where the company is still based. It registered the Wolsey name in 1897 because Cardinal Wolsey was buried in Leicester Abbey, just yards from the company's headquarters. The Cardinal had been wearing knitted woollen undergarments when he died, the company's web site says.

The company secured a PR coup in the early 20th century when Captain Scott and Sir Ernest Shackleton wore Wolsey underwear on their trips to the South and North Pole respectively.

Last year Wolsey had profits of £900,000 on sales of £14m. It has been a regular supplier to Matalan, which has already snapped up the jeans brands Falmer and Lee Cooper. Matalan intends to grow the Wolsey brand, which it sees as being underdeveloped.

Wolsey was acquired by a 3i-backed management buyout team from Courtaulds Textiles in 1996. It has 100 staff in Leicester, who will be retained.

Matalan reports results on 1 May when the new chief executive, Paul Mason, is expected to detail his vision of the group's future. Last week Matalan revealed it had lost £1.1m as a result of supplier fraud which is now in the hands of the police.

The shares rose 8p to 343p.

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