Blog: Leonie BarriePrivate equity deals pick up

Leonie Barrie | 29 November 2010

Private equity firms are continuing to circle the apparel industry for potential investments. Hot on the heels of the $1.8bn buyout of children's wear retailer Gymboree by Bain Capital, which was finalised last week, comes news of the takeover of US apparel retailer J Crew.

This US$3bn deal seems to be as much about tapping into the apparel retailer's enigmatic CEO Millard 'Mickey' Drexler as it is about the business itself. Drexler is credited with turning J Crew around, and will continue as chairman and CEO following the proposed buyout. A private-equity sale would also take the company out of the spotlight shone on it by the public markets.

In other buyout news, apparel group Oxford Industries has sold its Oxford Apparel business for US$121.7m to LF USA, a subsidiary of consumer goods giant Li & Fung. For Li & Fung, the business will be a core addition to its US onshore menswear platform. While Oxford Industries says the deal will give it the financial flexibility to grow its Tommy Bahama and Ben Sherman brands.

For US retailers, the focus last week was on 'Black Friday,' which marks the unofficial start of the Christmas shopping season. Instead of waiting until Thanksgiving Day to announce their promotions, firms have been getting shoppers excited about Black Friday by offering sneak peeks of deals in advance, using social media to create a buzz, or teasing upcoming deals on their websites.

For many apparel companies doing business in the US there has also  been good news on the compliance front after a new survey praised Levi Strauss, Wal-Mart Stores, Gap Inc, Hanesbrands, Gildan Activewear and Nordstrom for the work they are doing. A scorecard compiled by corporate responsibility group As You Sow is thought to provide the first publicly available comparable baseline data evaluating the compliance programmes of top apparel firms.

But the Indian government's decision to restrict cotton exports continues to rile trade groups both at home and abroad. On the one hand, textile groups from ten developing countries have added to calls from the US, EU, Turkey and Mexico for action to stop the restrictions, which they believe are contributing to global shortages and rocketing prices of the fibre. While on the other, the Confederation of Indian Textile Industry (CITI) is calling on the government not to make any more raw cotton available for export markets during the year.


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