Next continues its clever buying strategy.
Fashion retailer Next has purchased the Cath Kidston business from the administrators for £8.5 million as it continues its strategy of buying up, and taking stakes in, retailers that it then plugs into its back-end infrastructure.
Among the investments to date have been sizeable stakes in or outright acquisitions of Reiss, Joules, Made.com, Swoon and the UK franchises of Victoria’s Secret and Gap. Further deals are on the cards as Simon Wolfson, CEO of Next, has stated: “It’s not strategic in the sense that we’ve got to have this brand or that brand. We are only going to buy brands if we think there’s a market opportunity.”
This opportunity comes from the ability to switch these retailers’ operations into the Next Total Platform. This involves the brands taking advantage of a robust infrastructure encompassing e-commerce, fulfilment and marketing services that Next has built over the years. They can leverage its best-in-class fulfilment that includes next-day delivery on orders before 11pm, an AI-driven search engine, and intelligent product recommendations.
These services are offered to third-party brands for a fee but Next recognised there was greater financial upside to be had from taking stakes in, or buying, these brands. “When we first appraised the Total Platform, it appeared to us that the value created for clients was likely to exceed the relatively modest profit generated for Next as a service provider. So it seemed sensible to invest in our future clients. In fact, so far, the group has made more profit from these equity investments than from the service itself,” says Wolfson.
The performance of the Total Platform itself has ensured it is a growing contributor to Next’s sales and profits. In the year to January 2023 it generated £144.4 million of revenue and £21.8 million of profit. This comes from only four of the acquired brands so when the others go live then this will deliver a step-change in the figures.
With the retail environment proving incredibly harsh there is certainly a high likelihood that Next will be able to add to its stable of brands. Supporting its strategy is a strong financial backdrop as Wolfson has indicated cash is not a constraint on its objectives because the underlying Next business continues to perform well and is cash generative.