Today is the deadline for offers for Ethel Austin, the value fashion retailer put up for sale last year (Retail Week, November 28, 2003).
Industry insiders believe that Ethel Austin is most likely to appeal to a private equity player for as much as£100 million.
Potential trade buyers, and in particular Peacocks, are focused on developing their existing business.
In the year to August 31, 2003, Ethel Austin generated a 158 per cent rise in operating profit to£12.5 million, on sales of£138 million.
The retailer has 270 shops, and was bought by management, backed by Lloyds TSB Development Capital, for£55 million in 2002.