Marks and Spencer is set to acquire upmarket womenswear brand Jaeger out of administration in what would be its first fashion acquisition in almost two decades.
Richard Price, who joined M&S from Tesco last year as head of clothing and home, said on Monday: “We have bought the Jaeger brand and are in the final stages of agreeing the purchase of product and supporting marketing assets from the administrators of Jaeger Retail.”
The high street stalwart is also acquiring the company’s intellectual property from a separate Dubai-based holding vehicle controlled by Jaeger Retail’s previous owner, Philip Day.
Jaeger is the first fashion brand that M&S has acquired since it bought Per Una from designer George Davies for £125m in 2004. It still owns Per Una, although it parted company with Mr Davies in 2008.
Its general reluctance to acquire made the £750m purchase of half of Ocado’s retail business in 2019, the group’s most recent transaction, even more dramatic.
Its latest target is far smaller fry — the price was not revealed but it is not large enough to require M&S to make a formal announcement and Jaeger’s last reported sales were £17.8m for the half-year to March 2019.
Although it remains an overwhelmingly own-brand retailer, M&S last year embarked on a strategy of working alongside third-party brands with the aim of diversifying its online fashion offering.
It already has collaborations with labels Nobody’s Child and Ghost, and sells children’s toys from Early Learning Centre, although it does not own any of these brands and chief executive Steve Rowe last week said it was not his intention “to turn M&S into a department store”.
The Jaeger transaction, which is expected to complete later this month, does not include the retailer’s remaining 67 stores, which are now likely to close.
Jaeger is one of four companies controlled by Mr Day that were put into administration in November after the coronavirus pandemic hit sales and profits.
Offers have also been accepted for Edinburgh Woollen Mill and the Ponden homewares chain but administrator FRP Advisory has not revealed the identity of the purchasers.
Many industry observers had expected Mr Day to buy the companies out of administration himself — as he did with Bonmarché, another fashion chain, last year — but Mr Day has told associates that he has no such intention.
He has, however, indicated that he would support any effort by others to save the brands and his daughter Lauren remains a director of both Ponden and EWM, as does his longtime business partner Stephen Simpson.
Mr Day also retains influence over the eventual outcome of the administration because EWM Group, the ultimate holding company for all four companies, is a secured creditor.
According to the administration documents, EWM owes £140m to its parent with the loan guaranteed by other group companies. EWM Group, which is wholly owned by Switzerland-based Mr Day, is not in administration.
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