Next is close to underlining its status as Britain’s most prolific buyer of rival high street fashion chains by snapping up FatFace in a deal worth more than £100m.
Sky News has learnt the FTSE-100 clothing giant is putting the finishing touches to an acquisition of FatFace, just three years after it was taken over by its lenders.
City sources said the deal could be announced later this week.
The purchase of FatFace, a family-focused clothing retailer which trades from around 180 UK stores, will be the latest name to have made it onto Next’s lengthening post-pandemic shopping list.
It recently confirmed that it was increasing its stake in Reiss to cement its position as the brand’s majority shareholder.
Since the COVID crisis, it has snapped up the online furniture retailer, Made.com, which had crashed into administration; Cath Kidston, which had also encountered financial difficulties; and JoJo Maman Bebe, the maternity wear retailer.
Lord Wolfson, Next’s long-serving chief executive, has also struck partnerships with Victoria’s Secret and Gap.
Its prolific buying spree means Next has effectively displaced the billionaire tycoon Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group as the UK’s most frequent acquirer of smaller retail brands.
The JoJo Maman Bebe deal was struck alongside hedge fund Davidson Kempner, with which Next also explored a takeover of Topshop when it fell into insolvency proceedings.
Topshop was ultimately bought by ASOS, the online fashion retailer.
FatFace’s owners were reported to have appointed Rothschild to advise on strategic options in May last year.
For them, the deal will represent a positive outcome, with the business having been taken over by lenders including Alcentra and Lloyds Banking Group in the summer of 2020.
Run by Will Crumbie, chief executive, the company was founded in 1988 by two entrepreneurs, Tim Slade and Jules Leaver, during a skiing holiday.
The pair needed more money to continue their trip, prompting them to sell t-shirts at night from the back of their camper van.
FatFace was bought by Bridgepoint, the private equity firm, in 2007 for £360m from Advent International, another buyout firm.
It came close to a flotation in 2014 but was forced to abandon it during difficult stock market conditions.
The company has B Corporation status, and enjoyed strong sales growth during its last financial year.
It now operates in the US and Canada, although its presence there remains small.
Next, which recently raised profit forecasts, has a market value of £8.75bn.
Next has been contacted for comment, while FatFace declined to comment.