Findel sells Letterbox, closes Cotswold Company


Findel had announced in April that it would shut toys cataloguer
Letterbox and home decor title The Cotswold Company. Since then
one of the brands has avoided the axe: Letterbox was acquired by
toys and novelties cataloguer/retailer Hawkin’s Bazaar. At press
time, however, The Cotswold Company was running a clearance sale
on its website.

The Letterbox website tells customers that its new management has
been working with one of Letterbox’s founders “to inspire a
Letterbox collection that will appeal to all of our previous
customers (along with new converts!)”. The new website and
catalogue are scheduled to go live in time for Christmas 2009. A
spokesperson for Hawkin’s Bazaar was unable to provide any
additional details.

As predicted in Catalogue e-business‘s March issue,
Findel also announced it was closing the central administration
functions of Findel Direct, based in Chadderton, and
incorporating them into its credit-based Express Gifts business
in Accrington, Lancashire. Express Gifts includes the Studio and
Ace catalogues. Sixty jobs have reportedly been cut, and Findel
said that the closure would eliminate losses of £8 million
from future trading performance.

Analyst firm Seymour Pierce sees the Findel statement as
“encouraging news for the group”, despite the job
losses. In a note published on 3rd April, the day after Findel’s
announcement, retail researcher Freddie George wrote that even
though pretax profits are being downgraded from £46 million
to £43 million, “trading in the core credit business
is broadly in line with expectations and there has, we believe,
been no deterioration in the bad-debt position.” He also
believes Findel will stay within its banking covenants and noted
that management “is taking an active role in cleaning up
the structure of the business”. This, he speculated, could
lead to Findel selling or closing several more of its loss-making
companies-though he didn’t specify which ones.

Findel’s recent acquisitions include

Letterbox for £7 million in June 2006

IWantOneofThose.com, Kitbag.com, and Kleeneze for £34
million in October 2006

Controlling share of Confetti.co.uk in 2006

The Cotswold Company for £100,000 in February 2007

Educational supplies cataloguer Philip & Tacey for £1.3
million in April 2007

Synergy Managed Equipment Services for £1.4 million in April
2007

Razamataz, Buy It Here, and Boogaloo, three gifts brands from
collapsed company Dream Direct, in May 2007 through associate
company Webb Group (now Webb Ivory DM)

Wholesale distribution and direct divisions of music and DVD
business ChoicesUK through Webb Group from the administrators in
September 2007

Health & Home Shopping in January 2008

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