General Pants’ CEO Sacha Laing has confirmed reports that the privately owned retail chain is in talks to sell, telling Inside Retail, “There’s been a lot of interest in the brand”. On Thursday, The Australian reported that Cotton On, JD Sports and at least one private equity firm are believed to be among the potential buyers of General Pants, which is owned by the Smorgon family and may go for $50 million or more. Monash Private Capital is reportedly leading the talks. “General
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neral Pants has a terrific heritage in the market, and I think people can see the transformation that we’ve been through. They can see the upswing we’re having as we accelerate our growth initiatives. There’s a lot of appeal and a lot of interest in the business,” Laing said.
The retailer’s growth over the last year and a half has been driven by its decision to start selling its portfolio of 11 own brands on third-party online marketplaces, such as The Iconic, Ebay and The Market, an online marketplace in New Zealand.
General Pants’ own brands include Insight, Neon Hart, Arvust and Alice In The Eve.
“Within our own business, [our own] brands are phenomenally successful, and we’ve been talking for some time about how we get them in front of more customers outside of the four walls of General Pants,” Laing said.
Just this week, the retailer launched its entire portfolio of own brands on Surfstitch, an online marketplace operated by ACTA Capital’s Alquemie Group that caters to surfwear brands and coastal lifestyle labels, and it plans to launch on The Dom, a new off-price shopping site started by Justin Seskin, and Westfield’s online marketplace in the near future.
So far, Laing said the majority of General Pants’ marketplace sales have been to new customers, so the retailer isn’t cannibalising sales it otherwise would have made through its own website or store network.
“We see it as truly an incremental channel for growth,” he said, adding that it has had a “material” impact on the business’ annual revenue.
The key to the retailer’s success on marketplaces, according to Laing, is the strength of its own brands. Unlike many private-label brands that are developed to fill a gap or as a margin play, General Pants’ own brands are desired and wanted in their own right.
“In some cases, we’re seeing some phenomenal results, which gives us a lot of confidence after a number of years of building these brands and having a clear understanding of the consumer that is attracted to each of them individually,” he said.
At the same time, General Pants is investing in its bricks-and-mortar business. It aims to grow its store network from around 60 stores today to between 80 and 100 in future. It is set to open five new stores in Australia this month and refurbish another four.
“Nine of our stores will be brand new boxes at the end of this month, and that’s a pretty significant number of new stores in our footprint for a business of our size,” Laing said.
The retailer expanded into New Zealand last year.