Privately owned womenswear retailer Bonmarche took its first steps toward a possible flotation last week in a £40m deal with Friends Ivory & Sime Private Equity, the Sunday Telegraph reported.

Bonmarche sold a 20 per cent stake to Friends Ivory & Sime, which plans to invest a total of £7.3m in the business, with Bank of Scotland providing a further £34m in bank loans and credit facilities. On completion of the deal Bonmarche will be worth close to £60m.

The retailer currently operates 225 stores throughout the UK, but plans to open around 30 stores a year in its move towards going public, chief executive Steve Bullas reported.

Gurchait and Gurnaik Chima, the two brothers who set up the company in the 1980s, will retain 70 per cent of Bonmarche.