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Marlin Brands hunts more wholesalers after homewares buy – afr.com

By Sue Mitchell | July 19, 2016

South African investment company Coast2Coast Capital is looking for acquisitions in a sector where many Australian investors fear to tread – wholesaling.

Coast2Coast's Australian consumer arm, Marlin Brands, outlaid about $50 million last month for Melbourne based homewares wholesaler Albi, which supplies retailers such as David Jones, Myer, Freedom and Adairs.

Marlin Brands managing director Greg Kerr says the group is scouting for privately-owned enterprises in four sectors – homewares, clothing and footwear, food and beverages and personal care – mirroring Coast2Coast's investment structure and portfolio in South Africa.

Mr Kerr said Marlin Brands would consider buying retail businesses and might even go direct to consumers by opening online or bricks-and-mortar stores. But its focus was on wholesaling, despite the fact that many wholesalers were struggling as big retailers such as Target, Myer and Kmart increasingly bypassed so-called "middlemen" in favour of direct sourcing."I definitely think there is a future for wholesale,"Mr Kerr told The Australian Financial Review.

"Albi is best of breed of any wholesaler ... they have been very disciplined about growing in both independent [retailers] and major [chains] and doing it strategically," he said. "For the last decade retailers have become wholesalers through their private label products ... but you see wholesalers going vertically in retail and online.

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