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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Sarah Butler

Frasers snaps up I Saw It First as it builds online fashion portfolio

Models wearing I Saw It First sitting on plane wing
The online UK-based clothing brand I Saw It First has more than 5 million shoppers. Photograph: I Saw It First

Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group has snapped up I Saw It First, its second acquisition of an online fast-fashion specialist in as many months.

The company said I Saw It First – which was founded and controlled by Jalal Kamani, brother of the Boohoo boss Mahmud Kamani, in 2017 – had more than 5 million shoppers and would “benefit from the strength and scale of Frasers Group’s platform”.

It added that the Manchester-based business, which employs about 220 staff, would also benefit from integration with Missguided, the online fashion specialist Frasers bought out of administration last month.

Sales at I Saw It First jumped almost 30% to £74.7m in the year to 1 October 2021, but it recorded losses of £7.7m, up from a loss of £7.5m the year before, and debts increased to about £25m, according to accounts filed at Companies House.

Online fashion sites are struggling to adapt to a fall in demand after high streets reopened when pandemic restrictions ended.

A change in shopping habits to more fitted garments, such as dresses and jeans, has also meant more shoppers are sending items back, a costly process that has put pressure on profits just as other costs, from energy and transport to the price of cotton, are increasing.

The tough landscape has enabled Frasers, which owns the House of Fraser department stores, Sports Direct and the Flannels branded fashion chain, to expand its online presence and expertise on social media selling.

Michael Murray, the chief executive of Frasers, has said Missguided’s “digital-first approach” would “bring additional expertise to the wider Frasers Group”.

Frasers, which is one of the few retailers expanding on the high street, is clearly keen to improve its game online after snapping up Studio Retail from administration for just £1 in February.

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