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Samsung’s fashion arm plots UK expansion

Samsung C&T, the textile, trading and investments sister to the Korean electronics company, is expanding its UK operations and actively seeking new long-term fashion and footwear business partners.

It already finances 33 Joints, licensee and wholesaler of footwear for brands including Firetrap, Original Penguin and US label Blowfish, and one other partner in the UK, which it declined to name.

The investment firm takes ownership of a fashion or footwear company’s stock and looks after the majority of its back office functions except sales and marketing - including payments to suppliers, credit checking, collection of payments from customers and the importing and warehousing of stock.

Payments to suppliers are made using Samsung’s cash, so its partners have an immediate and limitless financing facility. In return, Samsung C&T takes a percentage of its turnover. It declined to reveal how much.

It partners with companies whose turnover is in excess of around £10m, rather than start-ups.

“A significant advantage of working as partners of Samsung is that the company owner can use their time more effectively to concentrate on design, sourcing and marketing in the confidence that all back office functions are being handled professionally by one of the world’s largest companies,” explained Jay Lee, managing director of Samsung C&T UK.

The firm has been offering this service in the US for 25 years, where it has 12 partners, including menswear label Fubu. It brought the concept over to the UK in 2010 and signed with 33 Joints in 2013.

33 Joints said it was able to take on the design, manufacture and distribute Original Penguin’s footwear collection across Europe in May last year thanks to the partnership with Samsung C&T.

Samsung C&T’s fashion partnerships manager Andrew Tibber explained that the company took a “conservative approach” to operating in the UK to begin with, but is expanding after 33 Joints and its other UK partnership proved a success.

Miles Gray, chairman of Flyers Group, the supplier behind kidswear collections for Ben Sherman, French Connection and Nike, is consulting for Samsung C&T. He said: “Fashion companies are not top of the list for support from high street banks because of their volatility, so this is quite an attractive proposition, particularly for licensees [who can experience sudden growth spurts when they take on new business].”

He added: “Because Samsung is so high tech they have a fantastic order management system, which smaller companies don’t have.”

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