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Brown & Co acquires part of AS Cooper

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New ownership: retailer AS Cooper is selling its ground-floor operation at 59 Front Street to Brown & Co (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

An opportunity to add new cosmetics and perfume brands to their retail offering was a main attraction of Brown and Co’s acquisition of part of the business of AS Cooper and Sons Ltd.

Brown & Co, a subsidiary of The Phoenix Stores Ltd, is to take over the lease, inventory and staff of AS Cooper’s 7,500 square foot, ground floor operation at 59 Front Street.

The deal, announced yesterday, will not close until September 1 to allow for logistics such as computer system updates and data inputting to materialise.

Both companies have stressed that all jobs are secure.

George Grundmuller, president and chief executive officer at The Phoenix Stores Ltd, said: “Our team is excited to add the ground floor of AS Cooper’s 59 Front Street to our group of stores and welcome its employees to our family.

“We believe this acquisition will complement our Brown & Co operations and will add many world-class brands to our portfolio of exclusive lines. We intend to expand the business in the coming years and will work with suppliers to make this a top-notch retail location for Bermuda.

“Customers can expect the continuation of perfume and cosmetic lines offered at US duty-free prices with new brands available shortly.”

Included in the transaction are exclusive cosmetic and fragrance brands such as Estée Lauder, Clinique, Bobbi Brown, La Mer, Jo Malone, Bare Minerals and Shisheido. Also included are exclusive china and crystal brands, Waterford, Wedgwood, Villeroy & Boch, Kate Spade and Portmeirion alongside fashion jewellery lines Swatch and Swarovski Crystal (jewellery, accessories, watches and figurines) as well as the Picturesque Bermuda book and print business.

Mr Grundmuller said: “There is appeal for us in the cosmetics and fragrances, because already in Brown & Co we are one of the largest perfume retailers. For us, these are great brands.

“Brown & Co carries perfumes and Body Shop products, so cosmetics is a natural because the big perfume brands are also in the cosmetics business.

“The main potential we see is to add new brands to the business. We have been approached by many overseas vendors to carry products, but we don’t have space at Brown & Co. That is primarily on the cosmetics side. We are interested in the upscale cosmetics and perfume brands.”

The Phoenix Stores CEO said he sees value in the china and crystal brands, feels the fashion jewellery business will complement Brown & Co’s existing jewellery product lines, and says the Picturesque Bermuda book and print business acquisition also makes sense.

“We already operate the largest bookstore in Bermuda and I used to buy the books from them,” Mr Grundmuller said. “I already buy them, so it’s a good fit for us.”

He added: “We are excited about the acquisition. We have plans to expand the business, so we are looking forward to the second half of the year.”

The Phoenix Stores will operate 59 Front Street as a stand-alone store. Somers Cooper, AS Cooper’s managing director, said: “All ground floor staff and two buyers will become employees of the new entity under the same terms and conditions as their current employment.

“It will be sad to say farewell to so many loyal and hardworking members of the Cooper’s staff family but gladly nothing materially changes apart from the signature on their paycheques. This move allows us to focus solely on our clothing and fashion businesses.”

Remaining AS Cooper retail locations include the ladies’ department at 26 Reid Street, AS Cooper Man at 29 Front Street, Vineyard Vines at 27 Front Street and branch stores in Dockyard and the Fairmont Southampton Resort.

Mr Cooper added: “Despite the global downturn in brick-and-mortar retail, we see strength locally in certain segments and brands. We will continue to invest in growth opportunities in the sector and aim to keep offering the buying public great name brand fashions at US prices.”

Mr Cooper said it was bittersweet to sell this part of the business, which was started by his great grandfather, Alexander Samuel Cooper.

He said: “Beginning in 1897, he based the business on his love of fine china, crystal and glassware. Growth occurred when tourism took hold in Bermuda in the early 20th century. By then he had established strong relationships with European brands, some of which still exist today. As an example, we are Wedgwood’s oldest customer in the western hemisphere.”

Once the transaction is complete on September 1, a statement said, customers can use their existing Phoenix Stores charge and gift cards for purchases at the new location. AS Cooper gift cards will no longer be accepted on the ground floor as of September 1, but they will still be redeemable at all other AS Cooper locations.

AS Cooper gift card holders with questions or concerns are asked to e-mail info@ascooper.bm or contact Somers Cooper at 295-3961 ext 268

New ownership: retailer AS Cooper is selling its ground-floor operation at 59 Front Street to Brown & Co (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Somers Cooper
George Grundmuller