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Cotton Traders eyes growth as founders regain control

Leisurewear retailer Cotton Traders wants to expand its stores and online presence after a record year of trading allowed its founders to buy back Next’s 33% share in the company.

Former England rugby union players Fran Cotton and Steve Smith bought back the shares from Next, which had held a stake in the company since 1997, to become the company’s only two equal shareholders in July. They are now eyeing a number of new stores, as well as growing its online business.

“It was mutually agreed with Next, with whom we had a really good relationship, following a year where we achieved our best ever profit,” explained managing director Nick Hamblin.

The leisurewear company recorded sales of £80.73m and made £6.4m in profit in the year to January 1. It currently has a network of 131 stores and concessions, which includes shops in gardening centres, motorway service stations and outlets across the UK, but plans to grow this over the next three years.

“We have opened five stores since September and I anticipate we will open between six and 10 next year,” said Hamblin.

Cotton added: “We’re developing into an omnichannel retailer with a multinational reach. Internet shopping now makes up 50% of our business – and 46% of those orders are made from tablets. That’s happened in the last three years.

“We’re also expanding into more international markets, including Australia. They have a big ex-pat community but no-one does mail order well there.”

The company will launch on Amazon during the second quarter of next year.

Next also owns women’s young fashion brand Lipsy, which it acquired for £17.4 million in October 2008.

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