Bras N Things and BrightEyes Sunglasses bought back by previous owners

Retail veteran Brett Blundy’s BB Retail Capital has bought back a 50% stake in Australian business Bras N Things Group, from a private equity consortium of ANZ and IMF Investors, in what’s one of two recent business buy-backs.

Blundy founded Bras N Things 30 years ago, but in 2008 sold his 50% share to finance growth in his other retail brands and homemaker properties within the BBRC portfolio.

As part of the buy-back, Blundy has also invited his former colleague and head of Sanity Entertainment, Ray Itaoui, to co-invest in the venture.

Blundy said in a statement it’s an exciting time for BBRC.

“Today, more than ever, I believe in Bras N Things and our business model. I believe in our customer and I believe in our people,” he said.

“We have an exciting new team, including a new CEO and product team, who are creating new products which our customers are responding to really well.”

The purchase is one of three major moves from BBRC in the past six months. The group announced its acquisitions of Supa Centa Belrose and Jubilee Retail Homemaker Centres in April and July this year respectively.

SmartCompany contacted BBRC, but no comment was available.

The second buy-back occurred in October when Ralph Edwards and Geoff Harbert re-purchased the BrightEyes Sunglasses chain from Luxottica, which owns retailers such as OPSM and Sunglass Hut.

Edwards and Harbert were originally part of an Australian consortium that purchased Bright Eyes in 2000.

Over eight years the pair expanded the business from 80 to 140 franchises, making it Australia’s largest privately owned retail sunglasses network, but in 2007 they sold Bright Eyes to Oakley Inc.

A year later Oakley joined the Luxottica portfolio and Edwards told SmartCompany this change was one of the driving factors behind the buy-back.

“I didn’t sell to the company I just bought Bright Eyes back from. We sold to Oakley who at the time had many subsidiaries around the world which were still being run by their founders … But when Oakley became part of Luxottica, they didn’t keep the same structure,” he says.

“It was amalgamated with Sunglass Hut, which relocated the business from Queensland to Sydney and they didn’t operate it under a model where the founders were still running the businesses. I didn’t sell to leave, I sold to stay, and that’s why I was interested for the past five or six years to buy back the business.”

On top of this, Edwards says he’s always been involved in the optical industry and saw it was the right time to repurchase the brand.

“I’ve always been associated with the industry and kept close to it. I also kept close relationships with the franchisees,” he says.

“It was about an opportunity. It is the right time, as there has been a turn in the economy, retail is picking up and the signs were there.”

Edwards says his motivation to sell the brand in the first place also came down to timing, as prior to 2008 it had been “a very good time to do business”, but this changed when the GFC struck.

Under the control of Edwards and Harbert, Luxottica will continue to be involved in the future success of the brand.

“We have a close relationship with Luxottica, they are a big player in the optical space, so it’s not like they’re looking at the back of our heels as we’re running down the road. They’re a key supplier to our group,” Edwards says.

“While we’ve bought the business back and have some fairly good plans, they remain a key component of our future strategy.”

Edwards says the initial plan for the business is focusing on consolidating and “steadying the ship”, and then attention will be turned to growth and expansion.

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