Furniture Village, the largest independent furniture retailer in the UK, secured a £6m investment from the BGF in August 2014.
Furniture Village was established in 1989 by co-founder and CEO, Peter Harrison, with a simple philosophy: to offer truly excellent products, prices and service to all its customers. The company’s core product category is sofas, alongside cabinet furniture, beds and accessories. Marking its 25th anniversary of trading at the time of BGF’s investment and still independently owned, the business has 40 stores across the UK, employs 760 people and generates revenues of £200m per annum.
BGF’s funding is enabling Furniture Village to accelerate a roll-out expansion of new stores across the UK, as well as bolstering an ongoing investment in technology: to enhance the customer experience in-store and further develop the company’s e-commerce platform. BGF took a minority stake in the business and Jon Simon joined the board as BGF’s representative.
Furniture Village is uniquely positioned at the top end of the volume market and prides itself in being the largest retailer of leading brands in the sector, the majority of which are sourced from the UK. With its accent on quality and design it is well-placed to take advantage of improving economic and market conditions.
Peter Harrison, CEO of Furniture Village commented:
“Having achieved a significant improvement in trading performance in our last financial year ending March 2014, which has continued strongly into this current year, this is an ideal time for us to expand and further enhance our presence, both in terms of physical stores and online.
We are appreciative of BGF’s support and confidence, and beyond the many other potential benefits that will arise from our new and close association, this substantial investment will enable us to accelerate our plans and for Furniture Village to remain at the forefront of British retail in its sector.”
Jon Simon, Senior Investment Manager, BGF commented:
“This represents an exciting opportunity for BGF to back a well known British brand with a strong heritage and a track record of profitability. We are supporting a clear growth strategy based on selective store roll-out and investment in new software. This in turn, will improve the operational efficiencies of the business and increase the focus on e-commerce, all of which will add to the customer experience. Over 25 years Furniture Village has developed into one of the UK’s leading furniture retailers and we look forward to supporting the management team as the company embarks on this next phase of growth.”
In December 2013 BGF invested £3.2m for a minority stake in Cass Art, one of the UK’s leading independent art materials retailers. This was BGF’s 11th investment in London and the South East.
Founded in 2001 by CEO Mark Cass, an avid art promoter and entrepreneur, Cass Art strives to encourage as many people as possible to create art, believing that art is a fundamental human need, with an emphasis on nurturing talent, expression and art as freedom.
Cass Art’s first store was on Kensington High Street. Since then the company has expanded and now has six stores across London in Hampstead, Charing Cross, Kingston, Soho and its flagship store in Islington. The company now also has a national presence with stores in Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow.
The business and brand has grown from strength to strength over the past five years and now employs over 130 staff. BGF backed the Cass Art team to roll out new stores in major cities across the UK and to develop its e-commerce platform (www.cassart.co.uk) which presents a significant opportunity to grow on a national scale.
Since BGF invested, Cass has opened three stores and significantly increased its e-commerce operations.
Cass Art attracts a wider and younger range of customers than traditional art stores by making art accessible with its high street locations, workshops and relative affordability.
Typical customers include a mixture of beginners, hobbyists, art students, vocational artists and professional artists, as well as children through the launch in 2009 of the award-winning Cass Art Kids range of products.
Management have also established many partnerships with London’s cultural institutions and art universities, including the National Gallery, the Royal Academy of Arts, the Royal College of Art, Design Museum and the Institute for Contemporary Arts, all of which are heritage institutions looking to appeal to a younger audience well-represented by Cass Art’s customer base.
The UK art materials market is highly fragmented with a handful of retailers accounting for just over a quarter of sales. Approximately 10% or 180,000 of all UK university students are enrolled in an Arts course with enrolment growing by 25% between 2004 and 2010. The market’s fragmentation and growing customer base both offer considerable opportunity for Cass Art to professionalise the UK market.
Mark Cass has been an avid art promoter and entrepreneur throughout his business career firstly as Managing Director of Craftsmith which his family bought from WH Smith in 1979. This was the largest arts and crafts retailer in the UK and was sold in 1984.
In 1979 Mark and his father Wilfred Cass OBE co-founded the Image Bank UK, the world’s largest film and stock photography library which was sold to Getty images in 2000. In 2001, he turned his attention to creating Cass Art, expanding the Company to six stores today.
Stuart Rose, the former Chairman of toy group Hamleys, ex-Managing Director and deputy Chairman of The Body Shop and former Chairman of Agent provocateur joined the Cass Art board as Non-Executive Chairman. This appointment was made by BGF through its Talent Network.
BGF was introduced to Cass Art by the company’s bankers Barclays.
DUNCAN AND TODD
BGF invested in one of Scotland’s largest independent optical chains, Duncan & Todd (Group) Limited, in December 2013. BGF invested £5.6m to fund store acquisitions, increase manufacturing capability and support sales growth. Since our investment, the company has strengthened its management team, increased its retail footprint and invested circa £1m in its manufacturing facility. In February 2015, BGF provided an additional £3.5m of follow-on funding to support the acquisition of 20:20 Opticians, a six branch retail chain, which marks the company’s move into the Central Belt.
Duncan & Todd was established in 1973 and is one of Scotland’s largest independent optical chains with a turnover of over £10m and employing over 200 staff. It was the subject of a management buy-out in 2007 led by the current Managing Director Frances Duncan, who has been with the business for fast approaching 30 years. Duncan is a qualified dispensing optician with a deep understanding of the sector and has been instrumental in the successful growth of the chain.
The business operates in three divisions: Retail – offering the full patient journey from professional eye exams to eyewear purchases; Corporate – providing DSE compliance and safety eye care services for corporate customers; and Manufacturing – where the Group manufactures and coats spectacle lenses in its state-of-the-art manufacturing facility.
The chain currently has 30 retail stores spread across cities and market towns in Scotland from St Andrews in Fife to Wick in Caithness, and is actively on the look-out for further acquisition opportunities.
At the time of our initial investment Bob Brannan joined the board as Chairman. Bob brings a wealth of experience in the consumer goods and service sectors. He is the current Chairman of Vets Now and the William Jackson Food Group. His former roles include being Chairman of Ben Sherman and group Managing Director of Whyte & Mackay. BGF Senior Investment Manager Patrick Graham was also appointed to the board. Since BGF’s initial investment, the management team has been further strengthened with the appointment of a Commercial Director and new Finance Director.
BGF EXECUTIVE SUMMARY – AN EVENING WITH SIR STUART ROSE
Tuesday 26th November saw the first of BGF’s “Executive Summary” events where ambitious entrepreneurs and business owners can hear first hand the experiences of some of the UK’s brightest business leaders.
Sir Stuart Rose, the former CEO and Executive Chairman of Marks & Spencer, shared the experiences that he has gained during a 40 year career in the retail sector and his advice on how to successfully run a business.
The event was attended by a broad range of private businesses operating in the retail sector – some of whom have recently accepted growth capital investment from BGF. Scale, diversity and continuing innovation in this sector offer great opportunities: in just two years we have invested £32m in seven retailers and are keen to hear from other business owners on a mission to grow.
Sir Stuart Rose’s Tips for Running a Successful Business:
- Enjoy your work – a working lifetime is too long to be unfulfilled. Passion and enthusiasm will take you a long way, whatever your sector.
- Business is Darwinian: be flexible, embrace change. The weak and ailing will eventually die while the fitter and stronger will move in quickly to fill the gap. All the mistakes that I have seen in business are borne out complacency and in time formerly dominant businesses will play catch up to their more agile competitors. Any good business needs to keep reinventing itself.
- Don’t be afraid to take a risk – it comes with management. We learn from our mistakes, and fear of making them should not hold us back. Again the rules of nature apply, if you don’t try or you just wait too long to act, someone hungrier will eat your lunch.
- Have the courage of your convictions. Some plans inevitably take time to gain traction or to come good.
- You can always change your mind. Trust your intuition – if something feels wrong, it probably is. Be honest enough to recognise when you face a problem; and when you do, act quickly to deal with it. You may be the senior person within your business but you don’t need to have all the answers all of the time.
- Leadership can be lonely – surround yourself with the best people and capitalise on their skills. A business is ultimately a collective of people, skills and ideas and the best leaders encourage and harness this potential. A business needs the sum of all its parts to stay ahead.
- Running a business is tough; it’s relentless and it can be hard to leave behind. However every business leader needs time out. They must be able to see the bigger picture, but being too close for too long will simply obscure the view. Some of my best ideas have been conceived when least expected.
BGF’s Executive Summary series will resume again in 2014. If you would like to receive information about forthcoming speakers, please get in touch via the BGF website.
Better Bathrooms is one of the UK’s leading bathroom retailers and was founded in 2001 by Colin Stevens. Colin started the business from his bedroom at the age of 22, initially trading a range of products online via eBay.
Better Bathrooms sells bathroom products direct to consumers via its showrooms, its main website www.betterbathrooms.com, and telephone mail order catalogue. Better Bathrooms operates a buy direct business model, offering designer style and quality products at competitive prices.
In June 2013, BGF invested £10m of growth capital in the company. In addition, BGF introduced Paul Gilbert, non-executive chairman of The Gym Group and former FD of Matalan as the new non-executive chairman of the business.
In June 2015, Better Bathrooms appointed Lee Ellis as the new finance director with a position on the board. Lee has over 20 years’ experience as a finance professional and has previously held roles as head of commercial finance at Halfords, UK finance director at ghd and retail finance director at Phones 4u. Lee has also worked for several larger organisations, including Rolls-Royce and Asda.
BGF’s investment in Better Bathrooms is helping accelerate growth by allowing the company to explore alternative source supplies, expand into adjacent markets and potentially into new global geographies. The company has also demonstrated an impressive track record of growth from £7.5m revenue in 2009 to over £40m in 2014.
Colin Stevens and Better Bathrooms have won 26 awards.
BGF backs Midlands based Shuropody to expand its national footprint
Midlands based Shuropody is the UK’s leading specialist footcare provider with local branches in Birmingham, Coventry, Leamington Spa and Stratford-Upon-Avon within its 63-strong national network.
In September 2012, BGF invested £3 million of growth capital in Shuropody to enable the company to expand upon its current garden centre based sites, as well as the introduction of new community service locations. It is expected this will generate another 200 jobs over the next three years.
This investment was led by BGF’s seven strong Birmingham team and is its third investment in Midlands based businesses to date.
BGF’s ability to structure investments flexibly to best meet a particular company’s financing needs enabled it to split the £3 million growth capital investment into £1.5 million of ordinary shares and £1.5 million of loan notes.
Shuropody delivered sales of £15.8 million in the year ending 31 December 2011 and is expecting sales to double over the next 3 years. Headquartered in Coventry and founded in 2007, Shuropody offers podiatry services and comfort-focused footwear products. Initially opening a handful of stores in 2007, the company grew rapidly following its purchase of 43 stores from Boots, in July 2008. The business now operates from 63 standalone stores and concessions across the UK and is the second largest provider of podiatry services behind the NHS, with 400 employees, of whom almost 150 are medically qualified podiatrists.
Shuropody was founded by Managing Director Frank Duffy who has been involved in the manufacture and retail of footwear and general clothing since 1978. He previously spent four years as Group CEO of R Griggs Group which famously produced Dr. Marten’s shoes. Gordon Horsfield acts as Non-Executive Chairman and was previously Chairman of Drax Group Plc where he led the restructuring programme before listing the business on the London Stock Exchange in 2005.