LK Bennett founder buys back business, plans fast expansion

The story of LK Bennett’s ownership has come full circle with the company confirming today that founder Linda Bennett has bought the stake held by Phoenix Equity Partners.

The footwear-to-womenswear entrepreneur hasn’t disclosed how much she paid.

LK Bennett

Bennett sold control of the firm to Phoenix back in 2008 and while that price wasn’t disclosed either, it was estimated to between £80 million and £100 million.

The ownership change is perhaps less of a surprise than it might have given that Bennett had retained a stake and remained on the board after the sale. And she rejoined it in an active consulting role this spring as its CEO Darren Top worked to restore her founder’s vision of “a little bit of Bond Street on the High Street”.

The company has seen mixed fortunes since the original sale with recent periods proving to be challenging. Losses widened to £4.5m from £1.1m and turnover fell 1% to £92.3m in its latest year, with gross profit down 2% to £58.3m. But comp sales edged up 1% in that period and have risen 6% since the year ended. E-store sales rose 19% last year with the US and Canada site forging ahead by 35%.

So what will happen now? Well it looks like more of what we’ve seen in recent months. The company has already set about transforming its fortunes with new categories such as swimwear (in a deal with Biondi) and jewellery being added, while it has also been “stretching price points” to reach a wider customer base, and boosting the in-store experience. It will open new stores and concessions fast, planning around 40 a year.

CEO Darren Topp certainly seemed happy at the ownership change. He said: “The management team and I are delighted that Linda Bennett has demonstrated her continued commitment to the business. [She] is exceptionally well placed to support its continued growth. Linda has been working with the team since April improving the product, growing the business and supporting the changes we began to make.”

Bennett added that she had “a real sense of excitement and confidence in the potential of the brand” in recent months.”
The 27-year-old company trades from 262 stores in 31 countries and its online sales add up to almost a third of its total. In the last year it opened stores in China, Russia, Qatar, the US and the UK.

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