Sears sells Millets in streamlining operation

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The Independent Online
NIGEL COPE

The streamlining of the Sears retail group continued yesterday when it sold Millets, the outdoor retailer, to a management group for around pounds 20m. Sears will book a total loss of pounds 25m on the disposal which involves 163 stores and net assets of pounds 17m. Millets made a modest, but unspecified profit last year on sales of pounds 60m.

In the last 12 months Sears has now sold half a dozen store formats including Olympus Sports and a raft of shoe chains including Freeman Hardy Willis, Manfield, Trueform, Saxone and Curtess.

Sears chief executive Liam Strong said: "This completes the disposal of our sports and leisure division and is in line with our strategy of focusing on a smaller number of major retail brands."

The management team that is buying Millets is led by Roy Crosland, the former managing director of Rymans the stationers. James Kerr-Muir, the former Kingfisher finance director, will be chairman.

Mr Crosland, who bid unsucessfully for Rymans last year, said: "We think it is a very interesting opportunity. It is the only sizeable company in the outdoor sector which is a growing market. We are very excited by it." According to market researchers Mintel, the outdoor goods market grew by 50 per cent between 1990-95.

Mr Crosland says there will be no shop closures or redundancies. He plans to concentrate Millets more on outdoor clothing, less on leisurewear. The management team is being backed by venture capital group 3i and has raised pounds 22.5m for the deal which includes a sum for working capital.

The first branch of Millets opened in 1894 but much later achieved a nation-wide presence. Sears acquired the chain in 1986. Sears shares were unchanged yesterday at 95.5p.

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