Damartex gains a sister in £25m deal for Coopers

Andy Hill of Damart
Andy Hill of Damart
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DAMARTEX – the company behind the thermal underwear brand Damart – yesterday revealed that it had secured a £25m acquisition that should help it to attract more mature shoppers.

The company, which employs 580 people in Yorkshire, has bought the home and garden retailer Coopers of Stortford.

Damartex said the deal was part of its strategy of developing a portfolio of brands for the over 55 market.

Founded in 1995 by Neil Cooper, the family-owned Coopers achieved sales revenues of £29.6m in 2012, an increase of 40 per cent on the previous year, with EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxation depreciation and amortisation) of £3.7m.

A spokesman for Bingley-based Damartex UK, said the acquisition provided the opportunity to strengthen Damartex’s position in the UK market. Damartex’s brands already include Damart, and Sedagyl, which is aimed at “less agile seniors”.

The management team of Coopers of Stortford, which is based in Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire, will remain in charge of the business, and report to Andy Hill, the Yorkshire-based managing director of Damart UK. Mr Cooper plans to step back from day to day involvement following the sale.

Mr Hill said yesterday: “Our target customer is aged 55 plus, so we’re interested in any retail opportunity in that customer segment. Coopers is an extremely well-established business that sells products that don’t have a significant cross-over with our product offering.

“It’s a great fit – the business is multi-channel.”

Damart and Coopers have now become sister companies, said Mr Hill.

He added: “The Coopers brand has been built up over the last 20 years. It has a tremendous customer service ethos, which is very similar to our own.”

Coopers of Stortford sells products for the home, garden and leisure markets. Coopers has 160 employees and 1.4m customers, who can buy products through catalogues, over the internet or visiting a store.

According to Mr Hill, Coopers started talking to interested parties about a sale around six months ago, and had been in exclusive talks with Damart for several months.

Mr Hill said Damart had no other deals in the pipeline following the acquisition of Coopers.

Damart has its head office, which includes a call centre, in Bingley, West Yorkshire. It also has an operation in nearby Steeton.

Mr Hill added: “We value the fact that we’re close to being the largest employer in the Bingley area. We’re important to the local economy. We don’t take that lightly. We have an extremely low turnover of staff.”

Over the last 40 years, the company’s Damart thermal underwear has proved a hit with older consumers.

The brand has also grown to include ranges of ready-to-wear clothing, nightwear, shoes and household goods.

The UK operation is part of a French business empire, which was built around a discovery that protected soldiers from flames.

The Damart name is inspired by the office that the Despature brothers occupied when they started the business in 1953. It was in the Rue Dammartine – hence Damart – in the French town of Rubeille.

The brothers created a textile fibre called Thermolactyl, which they patented to produce thermal goods.

The company established a UK operation in 1965, when Damart thermawear bought a site in Shipley, West Yorkshire.

It moved to Bingley, three miles down the road, two years later, as it extended its range to include socks, hosiery, and ready-to-wear clothing.

Last year. Damart’s turnover rose by two per cent to more than £100m.

Mr Hill said that, over the last six to 12 months, consumer sentiment had been feeling more positive. “Confidence is definitely recovering,” he added.

Corporate lawyers from Leeds-based Walker Morris advised Damartex in connection with the Coopers deal.

Debbie Jackson, the corporate partner who led the Walker Morris team, said yesterday: “Coopers of Stortford is a business which dovetails into the Damartex Group and provides opportunities for both businesses to achieve their goals.”

Squire Sanders advised the owners of Coopers of Stortford.

Corporate partner David Hull led the Squire Sanders team, with help from associate Mark Yeo.

Mr Hull said the deal showed that well-run retail businesses were attractive for merger and acquisition activity. Cavendish Corporate Finance also provided advice in connection with the sale.