Dec 10, 2020
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Frasers confirms Arcadia interest, explains Debenhams thinking

Dec 10, 2020

Frasers Group has confirmed that it’s interested in buying Arcadia’s brands and on Thursday also confirmed that talks around a potential Debenhams purchase are continuing.

Image Sandra Halliday

In a number of interviews linked to the release of its half-year results, CFO Chris Wootton stressed the firm’s commitment to physical retail and how the current opportunities regarding distressed brands are always going to be of interest to the company.

“We do tend to look at almost everything on the high street”, he told the BBC, although he added regarding Arcadia that the company isn’t currently targeting specific brands. “The process has only just started so there's a long way to go as to ascertain what — if anything — we look at,” he said.

As for Debenhams, Wootton told Sky News that nothing is guaranteed. It remains to be seen whether Frasers is interested in “some or none” as far as parts of that business are concerned, he said. 

But assuming the company remains as keen to take control of the chain as it has been over the past few years, he justified the interest (when challenged as to why such a failed business would have any appeal) by highlighting Frasers’ elevation strategy.

“We’re great believers in bricks and mortar still, consumers want to go out onto the high street if you give them a reason to,” he explained. “We’ve been on this elevation strategy for a number of years, improving our stores. They’re bigger, they’ve got better product. The results speak for themselves. They’re drawing consumers in and I think it’s a learning experience for the bricks and mortar industry that if you do invest in your stores, and you make them welcoming and supply the right product at the right time at the right price, consumers will come”.

The results on Thursday were certainly a justification of the firm’s strategy in recent years, which has dawn its fair share of criticism as some have questioned its focus on buying under-performing brands. 

But some of those brands seem to be turning around and hold out hope that investments in Debenhams’, and maybe Arcadia’s, stores could yield results too, even if the firm seems unlikely to want to take on those business’s full current store portfolios.

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