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Thursday, July 8, 1999 Published at 11:40 GMT 12:40 UK

Business: The Company File

Sears sells womenswear business

Sears has already floated off its flagship Selfridges store

The troubled retail group Sears has sold part of its clothing business to rival Arcadia.

[ image: Wallis is one of brands which will be expanded]
Wallis is one of brands which will be expanded
The company is buying Sears' women's clothing business for £151m ($235m), including the Warehouse, Wallis, Miss Selfridge, Richards and Outfit brands.

All Richards shops are to be closed, although Arcadia said it would retain 50 well-located stores and keep them open under different names. It will take a £20m charge to cover the costs of closing the 77 shops, although it is not known how many jobs may be at risk.

But Arcadia plans to expand other brands, increasing the number of Warehouse outlets from 95 to 145, and adding more than 50 stores to the Wallis group.

"The brands fit well with our existing business and there is great scope for Arcadia Group to drive its sales and margins by developing the enlarged brand portfolio to its full potential," said Arcadia chief executive John Hoerner.

Battle for the top

The move will make Arcadia, which already owns Burton and Top Shop, the second largest clothing retailer in the UK with a turnover of £1.9bn. It will have an 11.5% share of the market, behind Marks and Spencer's 14.5%.

It is a part of a break-up plan by Sears, which has essentially put itself up for sale after its acquisition by venture capitalist Philip Green and the disposal of its main subsidiary, Selfridges.

The whole of its women's clothing business only made a profit of £6m last year on sales of over £400m. Sales dropped by 3.8% on a like-for-like basis in the first four months of 1999.

There is speculation that Storehouse, which owns Bhs and Mothercare, may be the next takeover target after a set of poor results.

Shares in Arcadia gained 5.5%, or 10p to 239p, while Storehouse dropped by 4.5%.

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