LK Bennett sold to Byland, Chinese firm is new owner
today Apr 12, 2019
It’s official, LK Bennett is now owned by a company set up by one of its supplier-partners. It becomes the latest prominent name to be acquired by a Chinese business with the operator of its Chinese franchises now in the driving seat.
The deal was sealed on Thursday evening through Byland UK, a newly incorporated limited company, which bought “certain business interests and assets of LK Bennett Ltd in both the UK and Ireland from its administrators.”
The company was created specifically for the acquisition of the UK business and is ultimately controlled by Rebecca Feng.
So what are the details? We don’t know how much it paid but Byland said the upscale firm’s head office, website, concessions, and “a substantial number of stores will remain open following the sale.” However, several stores “will close with immediate effect, which will unfortunately involve a number of unavoidable redundancies.”
The stores to close include as many as five in London (Royal Exchange, Kings Road, Knightsbridge, Long Acre and Northcote Road) plus Bath, Belfast, Glasgow, Birmingham, Bridgewater in Northern Ireland, Gloucester, St Albans, the Westgate mall in Oxford, and two in York (its full-price and outlet stores).
The company added that as part of the transaction all gift cards, refunds, and orders will be honoured, which is an important part of maintaining customer loyalty. There have been some high profile administration filings in which this didn’t happen and this has soured shopper sentiment towards the brands.
But this deal isn’t just about the UK and its new owners see major expansion potential abroad.
Feng said on Friday: “The LK Bennett brand is synonymous with quality and we believe there is a real opportunity to expand its reach in overseas markets where significant untapped potential exists. Under our plan, the business will continue to operate out of the UK, looking to maintain the long-standing and undoubted heritage of the brand. This will be achieved through a combination of working with quality British design, and the business’s existing supply chain.”
It’s interesting too that the deal sees a management comeback for the firm’s former CEO and finance chief. Darren Topp and Andrew Ellis, have been working with Byland UK, “providing operational and financial support [and] both will remain post-deal in ensuring the business is a success,” the company said.
It gave no details about what will happen to the still-operating European arm or the US unit that filed for bankruptcy protection last week. While the international focus could bode well for those two operations, it’s also likely that Asia, where upscale British brands are seen as desirable, could become the key target region, especially as its Chinese franchise partner is now in charge of its strategy.
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