If a fashion retailer is in trouble these days, landlords are clamoring, sales are down, footfall is quiet, what can you do? It appears you have to yell:
It worked for Intu, with Next buying up three Debenhams' stores in its malls, just when no-one appeared to want thousands of square feet of department store badlands. Now it seems to be working for the American pink and black knicker store, Victoria's Secret, with a deal that will resurrect the business in the UK and save 500 jobs. The lingerie company, which either has men doing a soft-shoe shuffle outside changing rooms or describing not their wife but their fantasy woman to 15 year old assistants, went into Administration in June, Rob Harding of Deloitte stepping in to not make eye contact with any other man in the store.
Now Next is to take a majority 51 per cent stake in a joint venture with the US-owned company. The deal for the UK company was agreed following a bid process led by Deloitte which attracted interest from dozens of parties including M&S (who were in the running all the way along, until they suddenly realised that it wasn't a Victoria Sponge and sheepishly exited through the rear door). The NTI newsroom were all over this story back in July, reporting that Next had been granted a period of exclusivity to secure an agreement, complicated by the fact that cuts to rent bills also had to be secured from Victoria's Secret landlords (and we all knows how that goes).
Under the deal, which is subject to regulatory approval, Next gets the majority of Victoria's Secret's UK assets and, next year, control of its digital business. Finally, men will be able to buy ladies' underwear online and short-cut that raw chafing that can be so unpleasant on long train journeys when the fit just isn't right. Lord Simon Wolfson, chief executive of Next, said: "Next is very pleased at the prospect of working in partnership to expand the Victoria’s Secret brand in the UK and Ireland both in stores and online. Lady Wolfson is in dire need of a modal supersoft cami set and she is not borrowing mine."
Good. A happy ending for Lord Wolfson.