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Clothing chain sale is good fit.

Byline: Exclusive By John Cranage

A pounds 100 million-a-year West Midland-based clothing store chain founded and run by a husband-and-wife team has been sold for an undisclosed sum, The Birmingham Post learned last night. Bewise Group of Shirley was bought by smaller high street operator QS Group, a former stock marketlisted company that was taken private after a pounds 15 million-plus deal a year ago.

Bewise, which sells fashion clothing and home furnishings, was founded by David and Louise Tucker 27 years ago.

The privately-owned company has since grown into a chain of 200 shops throughout the country which employs 2,500 people.

Last month Bewise opened a new 10,000 sq ft outlet in Chelmsley Wood centre which created more than 30 jobs.

Mr and Mrs Tucker, who are known to keep a low publicity profile, were not returning calls last night. Mrs Tucker's future role with the business is not know, but Mr Tucker is to take a seat on the board of Hamsard, which owns QS.

A statement issued by Brightonbased QS Group said the acquisition of Bewise would create a business with 372 stores, an estimated turnover of pounds 220 million.

The figures give Bewise and QS pro rata turnovers of about pounds 107 million and pounds 92 million respectively.

Its main competitors will be the likes of Peacock, Bon Marche, Primark, Mark One, Mackays and George.

The two businesses are a good geographical fit with Bewise strong in the Midlands and Wales and QS centred on London and the South.

They will initially operate independently of each other while a 'full and thorough review' of the new enlarged group is carried out, the statement said.

QS chief executive Serge Khela said: 'Economies of scale, efficiency gains and increased buying power will improve our overall business performance and positively impact on the value-for-money offer available to our customers. The future, although demanding and competitive, looks positive for the enlarged group.'

Finance director Colin Ingram added: 'Enhanced systems, improved cost control and restructuring gains will all impact positively on the group's bottom line. The challenge for the management team is to ensure the integration benefits are realised as quickly and efficiently as possible.' Phil Sweeting of Barclays, which backed the acquisition, said: 'The strategic fit of the two businesses allied to the plans of the business going forward make it a particularly attractive proposition.'

Barclays also backed the takeover of QS Group by Hamsard, Mr Khela's investment company, last October.

PricewaterhouseCoopers and Birmingham law firm BPE advised Bewise, and Hamsard's advisers were Ernst & Young and Jones Day Goulden.

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David Tucker
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Oct 9, 2003
Words:435
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