Selfridges Sold to Thailand’s Central Group and Austria’s Signa – WWD

LONDON – Thailand’s Central Group has partnered with Signa in Austria to acquire Selfridges Group under a 50/50 partnership.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but sources say the deal values ​​the department store group at around £4 billion.

The deal covers Selfridges Group’s portfolio of 18 department stores, including Selfridges in London, Manchester and Birmingham, de Bijenkorf in the Netherlands, Brown Thomas and Arnotts in Ireland, and e-commerce platforms. their related properties and properties in London, Manchester and five locations in Ireland.

The transaction will see Selfridges Group become part of Central and Signa’s combined portfolio of luxury department stores, including Rinascente in Italy, Illum in Denmark, Globus in Switzerland and The KaDeWe Group, operating in Germany and Austria from 2024. Annual sales for the combined department store category were €5 billion in 2019 and are expected to grow to more than €7 billion by 2024.

Central and Signa will operate all of the stores within the Selfridges Group. They will continue to be run by the existing leadership teams, as well as the e-commerce platforms and their operating companies.

The Canadian business, Holt Renfrew, will remain with the Weston family.

Tos Chirathivat, Executive Chairman and CEO of Central Group said, “Central and Signa will focus on providing exceptional and inclusive digital and store experiences for both locals and foreigners. outside, to make sure we can give all of the stores in the Selfridges Group a bright future for the next 100 years. ”

Dieter Berninghaus, chairman of the executive board of Signa, said: “We will work together with the world’s leading architects to sensibly reimagine the stores in each location, transform these iconic destinations into modern, sustainable, energy-efficient spaces that stay true to their architectural and cultural heritage. We plan to execute on the late Galen Weston’s vision to deliver on his master plan and create a high-quality retail experience for our customers and brand partners. ”

Alannah Weston, Chairman of Selfridges Group, said: “Central and Signa’s acquisition of Selfridges Group is testament to the successful realization of my father’s vision of a beautiful, truly experiential group of department stores. high experience. Creative thinking is at the heart of everything we’ve done together for nearly twenty years, and sustainability is deeply ingrained in the business. I am proud to hand the baton to the new owners who are family businesses with a long-term vision. I know they will fully embrace that vision and continue to empower our incredible team to take the Group from strength to strength.”

Anne Pitcher, global chief executive officer of Selfridges Group, said: “We are joining an impressive group of leading luxury department stores across Europe, presenting a fantastic opportunity for business. business and strengthens our position and leadership position in global retail.”

Center group and Signa have been mentioned as frontrunners in the British press and have collaborated on major retail deals in the past, notably the purchase of Swiss department store chains Globus and KaDeWe in Berlin.

Central is controlled by the Chirathivat family, and works retail businesses in Thailand and Vietnam, as well as Europe.

Previously, the company made no secret of its intention to expand through acquisitions in Europe and Asia, and said it had little interest in the US market.

“It’s a very big, very advanced market. It’s very complicated, whereas in Europe we felt that we could buy these stores and improve them,” Chirathivat in an interview with WWD in 2017.

Alannah Weston with parents Galen and Hilary Weston.

Signa group is an international investment company and a holding company engaged in the real estate, retail and media business. It was founded in 1999, and describes itself as one of Europe’s most important real estate investors.

Its holdings range from Hotel Bauer Palazzo in Venice, to KaDeWe, German retail chain Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof, Eataly and the Chrysler Building in New York. It also owns Signa Sports United, which operates about 80 online stores for sports fans in 17 countries.

Signa said it will continue to supplement its real estate investments with acquisitions and new projects in top locations that “have the potential to create significant value.”

Selfridges began exploring a sale earlier this year and has been working with Credit Suisse to find buyers for businesses in the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands.

Galen Weston, who bought Selfridges in 2003, died in April at the age of 80 after a long illness. A few months later, discussion about the possibility of a group sale emerged.

Weston lives and focuses on retail, and it is clear that his heirs do not want to continue to manage Selfridges or other stores in the group.

During his long career, the late Weston held the helm of food, retail and real estate companies in North America, the UK and Europe.

It was he who assembled the Selfridges Group. His other businesses include Loblaw and Choice Properties in Canada.

The hallmark of Selfridges’ transformative sustainability initiative, Project Earth
Matt Writtle / Courtesy

He retired as the chairman of George Weston Ltd. in 2016 to continue her philanthropic work through the Weston Family Foundation in Canada and the Selfridges Group Foundation in the UK.

He stepped down as Chairman of Selfridges Group two years ago, making way for his daughter Alannah.

On the Weston watch, Selfridges opened a $64 million boutique in Birmingham with 270,000 square feet, designed by Future Systems, the architecture firm known for its outlandish designs, dreamy. From the outside, the store looks like a spaceship.

Weston is the differentiator of his vision for Selfridges: Immediately after acquiring the store, he halted plans for further expansion in smaller British cities such as Bristol, Leeds and Newcastle.

Instead, he redirects money to Selfridges’ existing units in London, Birmingham and Manchester, with a core strategy of making every Selfridges “an impressive and creative place to shop”.

In London, he’s revamped Oxford Street’s food hall, founded a tourism division and ramped up investments in the homewares division.

Selfridges’ Light Brew Pub
Simon John Owen

Beyond that, Weston doesn’t see Selfridges having to compete with UK-based retailers, such as Harrods and Harvey Nichols – his vision has always been broader than that.

“Our main competitors are not other department stores. It’s cinemas, restaurants and any other place where customers will go to spend their leisure time,” a Selfridges spokesperson said in 2003.

At the time of her father’s death, Alannah Weston, chairman of Selfridges Group, said the luxury retail industry “has lost its foresight. His energy energizes those of us who were fortunate enough to work alongside him to re-imagine the customer experience. He has real integrity, great curiosity, and a sense of fun. His positive outlook, belief in great people and excitement for the future will always be part of the Selfridges Group and who we are.”

In 2018, Selfridges in London became home to the largest luxury accessory hall in the world, 60,000 square feet of leather goods, gifts, jewelry and eyewear large and small. It is the culmination of a multi-year project worth £300 million.

The new accessories lobby, at the east end of the store, occupies one-third of the ground floor of Selfridges and one-tenth of the flagship building of 600,000 square feet Oxford Street.

The new space has floor-to-ceiling windows and is also home to The Corner Shop, which hosts a range of brands and creative ideas.

“The line is blurring between the street, the window and the retail space,” said Sebastian Manes, Sales and Purchasing Manager for Selfridges, in 2018. “We’ve never had a window like this. before and it’s a lot brighter. You can see the sky – and you can walk in the window. ”

Manes said Selfridges’ ambitions were huge for the hall: “We didn’t want the company’s approach to just being with another store. We want a revolution. It’s about how we get people to shop in a different way. “

Selfridges launches a new window, inspired by the joy and optimism found in nature, before the store reopens on April 12.
Jason Alden / Courtesy

It has also embraced sustainability with its Project Earth strategy, a vision to “reinvent retail and change the way we shop and do business by 2025”. According to Selfridges, the strategy builds on three themes – transitioning to more sustainable materials, exploring new business models and challenging thinking.

Selfridges has said that by 2025, the group will ensure that all of its “environmental impact materials” come from certifiable sustainable sources.

The group has been powered by 100% green energy as of the end of 2020, while the company has committed to reducing net carbon emissions by 2050 under the Paris Agreement. It will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 64% by 2030.

Pitcher told WWD in December 2020 that Project Earth is meant to “change the way we shop” and help customers be as responsible consumers as possible by 2025. Simply put, Selfridges customers You can now rent designer outfits, buy vintage designer clothes from Oxfam, refill beauty products to save on plastic, and repair their accessories with Selfridges “repair” instructors. .

“In the future, retailers can be anything – they can be home to content and experiences. They can be places to educate visitors, where the physical and digital mix. If we can listen and act on what we hear, we can become an important part of our customers’ lives. The best stores are more than just boutiques, it’s social spaces that are an essential part of the communities they live in,” says Pitcher.

Selfridges was the first department store in the world to open its Christmas windows and in-store displays.
Matt Writtle

The store was founded in 1908 by the American Harry Gordon Selfridge, who spent most of his career in the United Kingdom.

The pre-Christmas deal marks the homecoming of Vittorio Radice, a non-Central Group executive board member and vice president of Rinascente.

Radice transformed Selfridges from a sleepy department store into a retail store when he served as CEO of Selfridges from 1996 to 2003. He was early on the trend of experiences, opening up floor space. ground floor of the store and give it the feel of an outdoor market and create themed store takeovers.

It is understood that he was credited with putting together this latest sale.

Radice as chief executive of Habitat UK, and later moved to Selfconstruct. After a stint at Marks & Spencer’s home division, he joined Rinascente as CEO in 2005, with the task of revitalizing the Italian department store. Selfridges Sold to Thailand’s Central Group and Austria’s Signa – WWD

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