Selfridges is sold! Central Group and Signa Holdings bag the world-famous department store

04 Jan 2022 | Updated on: 27 Sep 2022 |By Mhairi Mann

The sale of Selfridges also heralds the return of retail impresario Vittorio Radice

Many people would like the entirety of Selfridges for Christmas. The Central Group, a family-owned conglomerate holding company based in Thailand, along with the Austrian Signa Group, has secured just that.

The billionaire Weston family, which bought the department store in 2003 for £598 million, put the Selfridges brand up for auction back in July, reportedly seeking around £4 billion.

As well as the 60,000 sq ft emporium on Oxford Street, the sale includes department stores in Manchester, Birmingham and Dublin. The Selfridges brand also owns international high-end chains, Holt Renfrew in Canada, Brown Thomas and Arnotts in Dublin and de Bijenkorf in the Netherlands, with its department store interests totalling 25 globally, the ownership of which will form part of the deal. Central and Signa are believed to have entered into a 50/50 partnership, with plans to develop Selfridges’ online offering with digital stores that form an extension of its physical locations.

The Central Group began modestly as a small shop in Bangkok in 1925, founded by Tiang Chirathivat. Along with his son, Samrit, he opened Thailand’s first department store in 1956. Since then, the Central Group has expanded into a booming conglomerate, which boasts 3,700 businesses worldwide. Its investment portfolio includes shops, supermarkets, hotels and restaurant chains, including Italy’s La Rinascente department store and Denmark’s Illum, with Tos Chirathivat serving as CEO.

Signa, meanwhile, also holds its own portfolio of upscale department stores while the two firms have also teamed up to buy Globus – which runs 13 department stores in Switzerland – and the German KaDeWe Group.

The sale of Selfridges also heralds the return of Vittorio Radice, the retail impresario credited with modernising Selfridges during the mid-nineties, transforming it into the luxuriant giant that it remains today. Radice was recruited by the Central Group in September of this year as a non-executive board member, responsible for running and expanding the group’s European outposts. Other key figures at Selfridges Group, including Global Managing Director Anne Pitcher, will remain in place.

“The acquisition of Selfridges Group by Central and Signa is testament to the successful realisation of my father’s vision for an iconic group of beautiful, truly experiential, department stores,” said Alannah Weston, Chairman of Selfridges Group. “Creative thinking has been at the heart of everything we did together for nearly 20 years and sustainability is deeply embedded in the business. I am proud to pass the baton to the new owners who are family businesses that take a long-term view.”

Founded by the eponymous Harry Selfridge in 1908, the Oxford Street store opened its doors a year later to offer a new form of experiential shopping, which quickly became the model on which many future department stores would base themselves. In 1921 Selfridge took the company public and, in 1965, it was acquired by the Sears Group, which embarked on a campaign of UK expansion. The company remained public until being bought by Galen Weston and looks set to remain private under the Central Group.

The sale comes at a time of growth for Selfridges, with numbers from Statista reporting revenues of £852.9 million in 2020, representing an increase of £43 million on 2019 and making it an outlier among wider trends within the UK department store landscape. Time will tell if this success will continue under new leadership.

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