Boohoo to sell its brands in Debenhams stores in Middle East

Online retailer strikes deal with Kuwait’s Alshaya Group to launch in franchise stores and online

Last modified on Wed 14 Jul 2021 04.56 EDT

The online fashion retailer Boohoo has struck a deal with Kuwait’s Alshaya Group to sell its brands in franchised Debenhams stores and online in the Middle East.

Alshaya, which already holds the franchise to operate Debenhams stores in the region, will have exclusive rights to operate its shops and websites in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Oman and Qatar.

Boohoo, known for its fast-fashion dresses and going-out clothes, bought the Debenhams brand and website out of administration in January for £55m, after the 243-year-old chain collapsed in 2020.

All Debenhams stores have since disappeared from the UK high street but it lives on in shopping malls across the Middle East.

Debenhams – a 200-year history

Debenhams – a 200-year history

Debenhams closes on Saturday after 200 years. More than 20,000 people have lost their jobs since the group first called in administrators two years ago when it had 166 stores. The brand has now been bought by the Boohoo group, but will only trade online.

Debenhams traces its roots back to 1778 when William Clark opened a drapers shop on Wigmore Street in London. It was renamed Clark & Debenham in 1813 when Suffolk businessman William Debenham invested.

In 1928 Debenhams became a listed company. It expended rapidly, to 100 stores by 1950.

* Debenhams was bought in 1985 by the Burton Group which also included brands such as Topshop and Dorothy Perkins.

* Debenhams split from Burton and relisted on the London Stock Exchange in 1998. It had developed its Designers at Debenhams own labels, with fashion ranges from names such as John Rocha and Jasper Conran.

* Debenhams was sold in 2003 to private equity groups CVC Capital Partners, Texas Pacific Group and Merrill Lynch. Together the trio invested £600m in the purchase.

*When the business was refloated on the stock market three years later the investors made £1.2bn. However, the group was now saddled with £1bn of debt and had sold the freehold on many stores, which were now locked into expensive and lengthy lease deals.

* Debenhams was burdened with debt, slow to invest in online shopping and in updating its stores.

* In 2019, after an acrimonious four-year battle for control for Debenhams with its lenders, the group collapsed into administration.

* Only a year later, despite a rescue restructure and the closure of 20 stores, Debenhams collapsed again.

* The group headed into liquidation in December 2020. Boohoo bought the brand in January.

Under the deal, Boohoo’s brands will be available in Debenhams stores in the Middle East from the autumn, and online from early next year.

Boohoo’s chief executive, John Lyttle, said the deal was a further step in the integration of Debenhams into the Boohoo group.

“The Debenhams brand has been popular in the region for a number of years so this is a great opportunity to build on the existing brand awareness, while expanding the product ranges and brands available to customers,” he said.

“It also offers a new route to market for brands within the Boohoo group, raising their profile in a growing new market.”

John Hadden, the chief executive of Alshaya Group, said Debenhams was already a well-loved brand across the Middle East.

“We look forward to enhancing customer choice by bringing exciting new fashion brands to the region and by expanding the Debenhams brand online,” he said.

Debenhams was one of many former high street stalwarts snapped up by Boohoo during the pandemic. It now owns brands including Karen Millen, Coast, Warehouse and Oasis, and acquired the Dorothy Perkins, Wallis and Burton brands that were previously part of Sir Philip Green’s collapsed Arcadia fashion empire.

The online fashion specialist said it had 18 million active customers globally, across all its brands, at the end of February. Boohoo has enjoyed booming sales during the pandemic, as shoppers shrugged off revelations about treatment of workers in factories making Boohoo’s clothing in the UK and overseas.

News of the Alshaya deal comes days after Boohoo’s online rival Asos announced it had reached an agreement with the US department store chain Nordstrom to sell Topshop clothing in its 350 stores and on its website.

Asos bought the Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge and activewear HIIT brands in March after the collapse of Arcadia.

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