Homewares and fashion specialist Cath Kidston – the trendy brand viewed as the Laura Ashley of the noughties – is understood to have received a number of unsolicited approaches from potential buyers.
The retailer has responded coolly to the interest, which industry observers said is another indication of a likely increase in deals as investors prepare for the end of recession.
This week it emerged that value group Matalan has asked PricewaterhouseCoopers to advise on a potential £1.5bn sale after private equity firms expressed interest in it.
Retail Knowledge Bank senior partner Robert Clark said renewed interest in deals at this stage of a recession is a “classic” pattern. He said: “Potential buyers have seen things bottom out and they want to strike favoured targets before the upturn.”
He said Cath Kidston is typical of the types of business that would appeal to buyers, adding: “Identifying dynamic, internationally extendable formats is a part of the investment game in retailing.”
A source familiar with the situation said there are “no formal plans” to sell Cath Kidston, which has been trading strongly despite the downturn as shoppers snapped up its floral designs, which appear on everything from tea towels to tents for Glastonbury festival-goers.
The retailer – in which founder Kidston retains a stake – posted a rise in profits from £2.9m to £4.6m in the year to March, when sales climbed from £19.2m to £31.3m.
The retailer has 36 shops, including concessions in Selfridges. Most are in the UK and Ireland but it has also opened in Japan.
Cath Kidston chairman Peter Higgins was unavailable to comment.