Outside glass view of RPC building.

Number of UK retail M&A deals up 28% in last year

Published on 25 October 2021

The number of M&A deals targeting UK retailers has increased by 28% to 37 in the last 12 months (year-end Sept 30), up from 29 in the previous year, shows new research from RPC, the international law firm.

  • Total deal value has increased over 40x to £17bn in past year

Deal value has skyrocketed by over 40 times from £416m to over £17bn in the last year, largely due to the £7.1bn PE bid for Morrisons and the takeover of Asda.

RPC says that an increasing number of prospective buyers see now as a good time to buy ahead of the full recovery of trading on the high street. 

Karen Hendy, Head of Corporate at RPC, says that retail sector M&A has a number of drivers including the continued growth of e-commence, PE backed deals, and takeovers of fast-growth affordable luxury brands. 

Karen Hendy says: “The retail M&A landscape has transformed completely in the last 9 months from being purchases of distressed assets to competitive bidding in a sector that is clearly bouncing back.”

“Changes in consumer behaviour mean that retailers need to constantly evaluate what they are offering - how well are they adapting to those new behaviours and communicating with their consumers?  M&A can accelerate this, for example, by allowing retailers to rapidly expand categories or channels or open up access to new geographies".   

"Retail, as an asset class, has a value, and this has been buoyed by an increased optimism around consumer spending." “Affordable luxury brands are being sought after by bidders.”

Recent retail M&A deals have included:

  • Online sportswear brand, Sweaty Betty, bought by US footwear and lifestyle group Wolverine
  • Online beauty retailer, Cult Beauty, acquired by e-commerce firm The Hut Group
  • Wiggle, the online sports retailer, bought by SIGNA Sports
  • Whisky Exchange (which predominantly sells online) bought by Pernod Picard

Karen Hendy adds: “UK retailers are attracting interest from several fronts, from established high-street giants, newer online retailers and private equity funds.” 

“They see an opportunity in buying businesses that have built up strong brand presence that will complement or enhance what they can offer the consumer. They are also anticipating an economic recovery and that increased personal savings made during lockdown will flow into the retail sector.”

“The surge in M&A activity underlines the faith in the UK retail sector. Despite all the challenges thrown at the sector in the last 12 months, it remains resilient and ripe for growth in the coming years.”

*As of September 30 2021

Graph showing the value of UK retail M&A deals jumping dramatically from £416 million in 2019/20 to £17,226 million in 2020/21