The year in review

The year in review

In terms of finance, 2008 has proved to be a memorable
year-though in ways that many would no doubt like to forget.
Nonetheless, let’s take a look at the biggest stories of the past
year-if for no other reason than to reassure ourselves that the
news wasn’t all bad.

January 2008

Littlewoods parent company Shop Direct
Group agrees to buy the customer database and brand name
of Empire Stores from Redcats UK. Littlewoods
retained the fascia, adding it to its stable of brands that
also includes Great Universal and Kays.

February 2008

Toys cataloguer/retailer Tridias is sold to
industry veteran Michelle Follett-Holt shortly after it appoints
recovery and insolvency firm Rogers Evans. Follett-Holt redesigns
the catalogue and website, eventually relaunching the business as
Cowboys and Cupcakes from Tridias.

Specialist apparel cataloguer/retailer Travelling
Light and sister company Active Travel
Apparel fall into administration, less than eight months
after having been bought out administration by OR
Clothing Co.

Fashion Direct, which had
acquired twice-failed womenswear cataloguer Penny
Plain in September 2007, launches Fashion
Union, a catalogue targeting 20- to 45-year-olds, a
younger demographic than the Penny Plain audience.

Industrial storage cataloguer Rapid Racking is acquired by Manutan Group. The French company also owns industrial supplies cataloguer Key Industrial.

March 2008

William Powell, a retailer/cataloguer of
sporting guns and shooting accessories is acquired by JM
Osborne, a firm of surveyors, leisure business
consultants and land agents.

April 2008

Builders’ merchant Travis Perkins
acquires a 30 per cent stake in cataloguer
Toolstation for £5 million, with the option
to buy the remaining shares over the next four years.

Active Private Equity
acquires a majority share of bicycling retailer/cataloguer
Evans Cycles.

Pandora Books, a direct marketer of books for
primary and secondary schools is purchased from founders Nick
and Mike Ison in a management buyout led by managing director
Martin Green.

Hornby Hobbies acquires the
Corgi collectibles die-cast business, which
includes the Corgi Direct catalogue, for approximately £7.5

Nutritional supplements marketer Healthspan
acquires competitor Healthy Direct and its
Nutralife (UK) manufacturing subsidiary.

Musical instruments retailer Sound Control Group
entered administration. Its brands had included and

Adili, the eco-friendly fashion merchant,
acquires Ascension, one of its main suppliers.

Just five months after adding fashion to its eCommerce site,
Tesco Direct stops selling apparel online.

June 2008

Corporate Express finally agrees to be acquired
by rival office supplies giant Staples, four
months after the latter’s initial bid.

Parcelnet acquires the courier business of rival
TNT Post. Later in the year Parcelnet will
announce that it will exit its fulfilment business to focus on
home delivery.

Haysbridge UK, the parent company of the
Music & Memories catalogue enters into
administration. Capital Ideas subsequently
purchases the marketer of “golden oldies” music and

July 2008

Multi title mailer Flying Brands announces that
it  shutting down its Greetings Direct
greetings-card business, just three months after testing the
brand in the US.

Retailer/cataloguer ProCook is acquired out of
administration by a consortium of management and major

Maternity apparel cataloguer Isabella Oliver
unveils a Canadian website and catalogue.

Bedding retailer/cataloguer Dorma is acquired by
home goods retailer Dunelm Group for £5

August 2008

Delivery firm Amtrak falls into administration
for the second time in two years and shuts down.

Sportsman Gun Centre acquires fellow firearms
marketer DJ Litts, which went into liquidation
in May.

Online registry Wrapit enters into administration.

United Business Media, the new owner of the International
Direct Marketing Fair (IDMF), announces that it is
folding the annual trade show.

September 2008

Courier firm DX Group acquires two divisions of
Business Direct out of administration: In-Night,
which operates a network of secure drop boxes for parcel
delivery, and delivery technology business PX Worldwide

NBTY Europe, the parent company of vitamins
retailer/cataloguer Holland & Barrett acquires
health-food retailer Julian Graves from
Icelandic investment firm Baugur.

Woolworths announces that it is folding its Big
Red Book. Of course, there’s more bad news to come from the
retailer, which enters into administration in November.

Toys cataloguer BrightMinds acquires T-shirt
marketer Rosie Nieper.

Lingerie cataloguer/retailer Bodas appoints
administrators but continues to operate as usual.

Computer etailer makes 20 of its 240
employees redundant.

October 2008

Long Tall Sally, a retailer/cataloguer of
speciality-size women’s fashion mails its first catalogue into
the US.

Asda launches Asda Direct, a website and
catalogue selling its nonfood products.

Next acquires fashion brand Lipsy for £17.4 million.

As part of its continuing restructuring, Shop Direct
Group “will see up to 100 management jobs lost and
“a number of new roles” created, according to a
company statement.

Tools cataloguer/retailer Screwfix eliminates 50
positions at its headquarters as part of a restructuring,
according to the company, and not a result of the flagging

November 2008

Otto UK begins a 90-day consultation period with
buyers and merchandisers as the company considers whether to
centralise purchasing in Germany, where parent company Otto Group
is based.

Extreme Group, the parent company of the
extreme-sports lifestyle etailer acquires
Urban Surfer, a web seller of surf and
snowboarding apparel and accessories.

Flowercard, a direct seller of fresh flowers in
personalised greetings cards is acquired by Graham Winn, founder
and former managing director of vitamins cataloguer Healthy
Direct, and former Healthy Direct operations director Ben Lowes.

Fashion manufacturer/marketer Marchpole, which
includes the Home Body and Home
Mummy catalogues, enters into administration.

Woolworths falls into administration and makes
at least 450 head-office employees redundant. On 17th December it
announces that all its stores will close by 5th January.

The government announces a cut in VAT, from 17.5 per cent to 15
per cent, which it hopes will stimulate consumer spending.

Reaction ranges from apathy (because few believe such as
small reduction will spur spending) to anger (because the new
rate is to go into effect 1st December, giving businesses just
one week to implement the change).

December 2008

Kingfisher, the parent company of tools
cataloguer Screwfix and DIY retailer
B&Q, announces it is shutting its third UK
brand, Trade Depot, incurring an estimated
£20 million in costs.

Home furnishings retailer/cataloguer The Pier
calls in the administrators. While seeking a buyer, it makes 26
of its 57 head-office employees redundant.

Kingstown Associates, the parent company of
Healthy Living Direct, Inspired Choices and five
other catalogues is acquired by its finance and operations
director, Carl Edwards, and former Damart UK board members Nigel
Mellor and Dave Whittle.

Warning of a £4 million loss for the fiscal year,
Ideal Shopping Direct makes 15 per cent of its
workforce, or approximately 70 employees, redundant.

Redcats UK announces that it may make up to 130
employees redundant.


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