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Former Asda boss backs new value fashion chain to hit high street

A new value fashion chain will be launched next year, led by ex-Asda chief executive Andy Bond and former Sainsbury’s director of general merchandise Adrian Mountford.

Currently dubbed Project 50, the retailer will be launched in the summer with 50 stores,

Initially selling autumn 15 product, backed by about £20m investment from South African retail billionaire Christo Wiese, who is executive director of African grocery group Shoprite.

Project 50 represents the first British venture by Pepkor UK, which was established this year to support Wiese’s retail investment group Pepkor in making acquisitions and investments in the UK. Mountford previously ran Sainsbury’s Tu clothing arm from December 2005 to September 2009 and was a Matalan board member from March 2011 to January 2013.

Also involved in senior roles are former Marks & Spencer head of merchandising Cathy Haydon, former finance director of Heal’s furniture store Mark Jackson, loyalty card scheme Nectar’s former head of business development Mark Elliott, and Amanda Burland, former Sainsbury’s senior buyer of childrenswear and womenswear.

A Pepkor spokesman said the chain would compete with supermarkets by selling affordable fashion, targeting mothers and children. The name has yet to be confirmed.

Property agent Savills has been appointed to lead the store search, with a size range of 3,000 sq ft to 5,000 sq ft.

Retail analyst Nick Bubb said: “The value sector is a crowded market with retailers such as Primark, Matalan and the supermarkets. However, as Peacocks announced it is expanding with Edinburgh Woollen Mill last week, it shows there is an opportunity in environments with lower rents. The focus must be on provincial secondary towns where the rents are very low; it wouldn’t work otherwise.”

Retail consultant Richard Hyman said the business would need more than the initial 50 proposed stores to cover the UK, but there could be opportunities as supermarkets are forced to scale back their property estates.

“The grocery trade will have to downsize its footprint, which will ultimately affect their clothing businesses, and this is where the new chain will compete. The interesting question will be how the model will differ from Asda’s George on the high street, which proved not to be economically viable when Andy Bond was in charge.”

Bond was chief executive of Asda from 2005 to 2010. George closed its standalone stores in 2008 after a four-and- a-half year high street trial. Since leaving Asda, Bond has been chairman of sporting goods etailer Wiggle. In press reports this year, Wiese has been linked with buying BHS from Arcadia.

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