British heritage brand Jaeger is on the market again, with majority owner Better Capital having confirmed rumours swirling around it in recent weeks. And it looks like former owner Harold Tillman could be interested in buying it back.
A controlling stake in the classic fashion brand was acquired by Jon Moulton’s private equity operation Better Capital for only £19.5m five years ago. On Sunday, Moulton said that “a considerable number” of buyers have already shown an interest.
Alix Partners is overseeing the sale process, Moulton confirmed to City AM, while the Telegraph reported Tillman’s interest in acquiring control of the brand that he sold back in 2012.
Few other details were available in either report but the prospect of Jaeger’s former owner returning to the helm is interesting with the brand having gone through one of its most directional phases under his last period of ownership.
In fact, lossmaking Jaeger has been through many changes and some bruising times in recent years but its latest turnaround does appear to be gaining some traction. Last month the company reported improved December and January trading and a good response to its outerwear offer. CEO Chris Horobin, a Better Capital partner, said Christmas period comparable sales were up 9% and online sales rose 22%.
The company opened a 2,000 sq ft store on Marylebone High Street last autumn and is launching its new website this month, designed to boost international sales.
However, the turnaround is still a work in progress and despite plans for new stores and an ongoing store revamp programme, it has also closed some stores, including its long-term Regent Street flagship. That location is now Coach and Stuart Weitzman’s London flagship.
Whether Jaeger can get back on top is still open to question and its historical ups and downs show that more than one CEO and owner have tried to turn it around with a number of different strategic approaches.
The brand, founded in the 1880s, targeted a stronger fashion image in the 1950s and 60s with modern, youthful designs by Jean Muir. But in subsequent years fell back on its more classic image and was struggling by the 90s.
In this century, under Harold Tillman’s ownership and led by seasoned retail executive Belinda Earl, it saw a return to the high fashion arena, first driven by Bella Freud and then by Stuart Stockdale.
But despite launching new, younger lines like Jaeger Boutique and getting strong reviews for the Jaeger London collections shown for several seasons at London Fashion Week, sales growth was elusive. It then switched back to a more classic strategy, something that has been continued under its current management and ownership.