Sock Shop steps into Hinchliffe empire

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The Independent Online
Sock Shop, the niche retailer that went into administrative receivership in 1990, has been acquired by Stephen Hinchliffe, the former chairman of James Wilkes and Lynx Holdings.

The Sock Shop acquisition follows his recent purchase of Salisbury's, the loss-making handbag and luggage retailer, from Signet, the renamed Ratners jewellery chain.

Mr Hinchliffe confirmed that he was considering a flotation of the combined group, which would have sales of more than pounds 100m from 300 stores. He said: 'There are significant merger benefits including cross- fertilisation of merchandise and savings in distribution.'

Sock Shop, which had 60 outlets when it was acquired from the receivers by a Murray Johnstone-led consortium of investors, has grown to about 90 shops.

It is understood to be breaking even.

The acquisition is in the form of convertible preference shares in Salisbury's, which will give the Murray Johnstone investors a stake of about 10 per cent in the enlarged group.

Founded by Sophie Mirman in 1983, Sock Shop came to the USM in 1987 as one of the most successful pre-crash flotations. Despite a historic p/e of 24 the shares doubled in the first day's trading from 125p to 257p.

By August 1988 they had reached 325p and the company opened shops in France and the US. Within 18 months, however, the onset of recession and sky-high debts had brought the company down and receivers were called in.

Mr Hinchliffe, who made the headlines in 1991 after being arrested and then released without charge after a fraud investigation, has successfully restored a retail business to profit before. In 1987 he joined a management buyout of Wades department store from Associated Dairies.