Mike Ashley considers bid for Boohoo co-founder’s fashion site

Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group is considering buying I Saw It First, the fast fashion website owned by one of Boohoo’s founders.

Frasers, who own Sports Direct and House of Fraser, could sign a deal in the coming weeks. Sources, however, warned that a deal could still fail.

Any deal is likely to fuel rivalry between Mr Ashley and the Kamani family, two self-made British retail giants.

I Saw It First is owned by Jalal Kamani, who helped found Boohoo with his brother Mahmud.

Mr Ashley battled with Boohoo for control of Debenhams after the department store collapsed. Boohoo eventually triumphed and bought the Debenhams website from administration.

Prior to the collapse of the department store chain, Mr Ashley had built up a nearly 30% stake and was seeking to take over the chain by ousting management. When it subsequently went bankrupt, Mr Ashley’s company lost around £150m.

The two sides also fought for Missguided, the failed fast fashion website. Boohoo was touted as a possible suitor for Missguided, but Frasers eventually acquired part of the business in June.

At the time of the Missguided feud, Umar Kamani, son of Mahmud, who runs rival fast fashion site PrettyLittleThings.com, wrote on social media that he “ended it for good”. [rivalry with Missguided] years ago [sunglasses emoji]…”.

I Saw It First is not part of Boohoo’s stable of brands and Jalal Kamani no longer has any shares in Boohoo.

Frasers and I Saw It First did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

I Saw It First recorded sales of £74.7m for the year to October 3, 2021, compared to £57.7m the previous year. Losses rose from £7.5m to £7.7m, according to the most recent accounts from Companies House.

Jalal Kamani is described as the “ultimate controlling parent” and a creditor of the company. He owed £11.3million over the period.

Fast fashion websites exploded during lockdowns as shoppers stuck at home ordered casual clothes, but sales have plummeted since restrictions were lifted.

Online retailers have also faced supply chain disruptions and higher numbers of returns as the cost of living rises.

Edwin S. Wolfe