N Brown is known as a highly successful but not very glamorous retailer - will its purchase of lingerie retailer Figleaves change that?

N Brown rarely gets a mention in this blog, which is unfair because although it’s not widely known about, it’s one of the big retail success stories of recent years.

The Manchester-based online and catalogue specialist is bigger than WH Smith, Sports Direct or Kesa in terms of market cap, but because it trades under a variety of separate brand names it tends to have a much lower profile.

Today it followed its purchase of High & Mighty with the acquisition of lingerie etailer Figleaves. Unlike most of N Brown’s brands, Figleaves is a mass-market retailer - most of its brands specialise in unusual sizes, particularly larger ones - but it is a well-established online player in its field and today’s deal is a further move in the gradual shift of N Brown from catalogue specialist to online-focused home shopping company.

Apparently Figleaves’ ebullient boss Julia Reynolds is staying on for now at least. I imagine that N Brown’s well-oiled infrastructure will help accelerate Figleaves growth and improve its efficiency, while the deal gives N Brown access to a broader customer base than its more mature traditional customer. Under its very likeable CEO Alan White, N Brown is definitely going places, and seems well-placed to exploit the opportunities presented by the digital age.