Entrepreneur buys stake in discount shopping club

Entrepreneur Tim Whitworth
Entrepreneur Tim Whitworth
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RETAIL entrepreneur Tim Whitworth is to become chairman of JTF after buying a stake in the discount shopping club.

The former chief executive of the Republic fashion chain has invested alongside existing shareholder Endless, the Leeds-based private equity house.

JTF has 12 warehouse stores, mainly in out-of-town locations across the North and the Midlands. It has sales of £70m and markets to its 500,000 members by email and direct mail.

Mr Whitworth, 42, told the Yorkshire Post that JTF champions the customer, through value, price and service.

“It’s a very hot sector at the moment and I think we can be more competitive given the space that we occupy out of town,” he said.

“I like the space and clearly I love retail and think there is a great opportunity to start something very similar to what we started at Republic 10 years ago.”

Mr Whitworth led a turnaround at the firm, opened 100 new stores and expanded sales from £20m to £250m.

He eventually sold Republic to US private equity house TPG for £300m in 2010.

Mr Whitworth has since invested his wealth in a number of businesses through his company Tim Group Holdings.

These include recruitment site Shortlister.com, motor dealer Yorkshire Classic & Sports Cars, sales agent Intelligent Business Transfer and upmarket retailer Weetons Food Hall.

He said that the rise of discounters like JTF is not a race to the bottom. “Price is one element of value. It is not the only one,” he added.

He is working alongside JTF chief executive Paul McClenaghan, a former commercial director at Halfords plc. Mr Clenaghan said: “Tim’s wealth of retail experience, drive and perspective will be of great benefit to the board, and wider business, and we warmly welcome him.”

Mr Whitworth said store roll-outs and e-commerce are logical next steps for the business.

Chris Clegg, managing director of Endless, said: “Tim’s involvement in JTF is a significant step forward for the business.

“We are particularly pleased that Tim has agreed to chair the board as well as invest alongside us.

“Tim’s experience and skills align perfectly with the board’s aspiration for JTF, and we look forward to working with him.”

Mr Whitworth is also a backer of Enact, a £10m fund launched by Endless targeted at small and medium-sized businesses that are struggling to get bank debt.

Other backers include Danny Mills, the former England and Leeds Utd footballer who lives in North Yorkshire.

Endless bought Nottinghamshire-based JTF in 2009.

Sports Direct bought Republic from administrators in February 2013.

@bernardginns