Ann Summers to sell Knickerbox

Ann Summers is putting the underwear brand Knickerbox up for sale as the lingerie and adult toys company tries to recapture the risqué edge that made it a success story.

The retailer has hired accountants KPMG to run a sale process for the business. It is thought interest may come from big supermarkets and department stores looking to bolster their underwear offering, with Tesco and Debenhams understood to have shown early interest.

Ann Summers bought Knickerbox, which focuses on feminine and comfortable lingerie, in 2000 for an undisclosed sum. The business was founded in 1986, but at the time of the acquisition the group had posted a £5m loss.

Ann Summers took on the Knickerbox group’s 33 UK stores and has sold the brand in store, online and through its Ann Summers parties, establishing it as a recognised lingerie brand.

Jacqueline Gold, the chief executive of Ann Summers, has run the family business since 1981, after being brought in by her father, David, the co-owner of West Ham United football club.

She widened what was a very male-focused adult brand by introducing Ann Summers parties to circumvent regulations that at the time restricted the display of adult toys, and making it appeal more to women.

There are now more than 5,000 Ann Summers party planners, holding more than 2,500 parties per week.

The group’s fortunes have been revived recently by the success of EL James’s erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey, and its sequels.

Pre-tax profits rose by 43pc in 2012 to £4m on the back of increased sales, particularly in product lines mentioned in the Christian Grey novels. Ann Summers’ more mainstream products are now sold by the beauty retailer Superdrug.

David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, confirmed the appointment. “The Knickerbox brand has a strong identity and a respected market position. We can envisage the brand sitting with a retailer, pure player or brand owner who can reach a broader sector of its customer base than its current positioning.”

Ms Gold said: “Knickerbox has been a very successful part of the Ann Summers brand for over 13 years and we have made this decision as part of a wider strategic plan that we believe will allow us to experience continued growth and brand development.”


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