Established in 2002 the business is trading successfully and has reportedly grown by 30 per cent. It consists of: Woodhouse Clothing, an in-season premium menswear e-commerce retailer; Brown Bag, which sells out of season stock at discounted prices; and Trainerstation, which sells trainers and shoes. Bridges’ investment will further fuel the business’ growth with the majority of capital being used for stock, recruitment, technical upgrades and the relocation to a new, larger warehouse.
Bridges say that they identified Clothingsites as an attractive platform on which to scale up an already well-established e-commerce menswear business with the potential to generate strong returns for investors as well as a positive societal impact. Over 100 high quality jobs are expected to be created in an area of high unemployment as a result of the investment, a large proportion of which will be recruited from Job Centre Plus upon the relocation to a new warehouse.
Clothingsites is the latest investment of the Bridges Sustainable Growth Fund III which last year announced its final close at £125m, exceeding its original target of £100m.
The fund focuses on the provision of growth to ambitious businesses that generate impact through the products they sell in certain sectors like education & skills, health & well-being or the environment, or to consumer champion businesses serving underserved markets or companies building economic dynamism in under-invested areas.
Bridges investment team, led by Alistair Tillen, is steeped in consumer, e-commerce and digital marketing experience with recent investments including cloud.IQ, a provider of cloud-based integrated marketing technology to e-commerce businesses.
In addition, Bridges has appointed Paul Gilbert as chairman for Clothingsites. Paul brings extensive experience from senior financial and management roles in consumer-facing businesses such as Matalan, National Car Parks, GUS and Littlewoods. He was also appointed non-executive chairman of Bridges-backed low-cost gym company The Gym Group in 2012.
Alistair Tillen, Partner, Bridges Sustainable Growth Funds, said: “There is a continuing shift in retail towards e-commerce. Clothingsites’ target market, strong management team, brand portfolio and size together represent a compelling platform on which to build not only a profitable business, but also to create a large number of jobs for previously unemployed people. We are delighted to be working closely with the experienced management team and Paul Gilbert to scale up the business and to create a positive impact in an under-invested area.
“Bridges Sustainable Growth Funds have a strong track record in backing consumer facing businesses which benefit either employees or customers from underserved areas. This investment is typical of our strategy to invest in early stage businesses, run by strong and ambitious management teams looking to scale.”
This latest deal from the Bridges Sustainable Growth Fund III follows investments announced last year in Qbic Hotel London, a brand-new budget boutique hotel in London’s East End and The Vet, a new choice of veterinary service that aims to bring the best clinical care at affordable prices to pet-owners from brand new, bright clinics mainly located in underserved areas.
David Foster, Managing Director of Clothingsites, said: “It was incredibly important to us to find an investment partner who understood Clothingsites and both our unique position and proposition. It was vital that they shared our vision of how to grow the business internationally across all three transactional websites. The strong partnership and understanding between the fund and the business is vital as we strive to capitalise on a very fast growing dynamic market for premium menswear.
“The investment team brings a very significant amount of e-commerce experience to our already ambitious management team. We are all looking forward to delivering our strategic growth plans and we are also looking forward to creating many new exciting jobs within the group as we progress”.