Preppy fashion retailer Jack Wills made a £9.7m loss last year as the business was overhauled ahead of a sale or float.
Former McKinsey partner Wendy Becker, who joined the business as chief operating officer last September, has led a raft of changes including closing grown-up fascia Aubin & Wills brand and bolstering its management team with appointments including new finance, retail, international, marketing, digital and merchandising directors.
However, the initiatives led to the £9.7m pre-tax loss in the year to February 3, 2013 from a £3.3m pre-tax profit the year before.
Sales from continuing operations rose 8% to £122.9m and sales from discontinued operations – Aubin & Wills – were £10.2m.
Aubin & Wills made an operating loss of £1.3m and there was a £2.6m exceptional charge for culling the brand, including the shuttering of 13 stores.
Net debt also more than doubled to £3.9m after the retailer took on borrowings to fund a new stock management system.
Becker, who was also previously the global chief marketing officer of Vodafone and managing director of TalkTalk, told the FT that the changes positioned the brand for future growth as well as a possible deal. She said: “I have been brought in to create a large global brand and to maximise the value of this business for a transaction that will certainly happen at some point in a three to six-year timeframe.”
Jack Wills founders Peter Williams and Robert Shaw are thought to be seeking more than £500m for the business. Williams and Shaw own 70% of the business with private equity group Inflexion holding a 27% stake.
The retailer opened six wholly owned stores, including two in the US and two franchised stores in the Middle East last year.
It has hit the expansion trail in its new financial year, opening another eight new stores so far with another two to four stores expected to open by the end of its year.
The company said it was “confident that the business will return to the levels of profitability previously delivered”.