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Sports Direct in £7m deal with Sir Tom Hunter

Sports Direct made a foray into the premium end of the retail market yesterday by buying control of Sir Tom Hunter's USC and Cruise Fashion businesses.

The £7m deal saw Mike Ashley's sportswear chain buy 80 per cent of USC, a 38-strong chain of shops which achieved sales of £70m last year, and 80 per cent of Cruise, which specialises in brands such as Ugg and has 10 stores.

Sir Tom will continue to own the remainder of the two chains and "will also provide strategic guidance to the newly established Premium and Luxury lifestyle division of Sports Direct", the company said yesterday.

The move comes amid turbulent times for Britain's high streets, which are battling against rising raw material costs and slumping consumer confidence.

Sir Tom bought Cruise for £5m from administrators last year, while USC closed 15 shops in a pre-pack administration in 2008.