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New Owner Snatches Long Tall Sally From Brink of Obscurity

Long Tall Sally, a U.K.-based fashion brand that sells women’s apparel and footwear for customers over 5’ 8”, will live on after all under new ownership, two months after initially announcing it was winding down business entirely after 44 years in operation.

AK Retail Holdings Ltd., which owns a portfolio of labels including women’s wear retailer Yours Clothing, men’s wear retailer BadRhino and brands such as Yours London and Bump It Up Maternity, acquired the online business and IP of Long Tall Sally for an undisclosed sum.

Shoppers can continue to shop from Long Tall Sally’s website until it closes on Aug. 27, chief operating officer Alison Doherty revealed in an open letter to customers published on the site. However, starting Sept. 1, AK Retail Holdings will officially take over the intellectual property and digital business. It is unknown whether the Long Tall Sally brand will be sold on an entirely new site, or within the sites of one or more of the new owner’s other brands.

“When we announced our closure back in June, we were heartbroken that Long Tall Sally would no longer exist but after weeks of negotiation, we’re thrilled that the brand can now live on and our loyal customers can continue to enjoy the unique fit that’s so important to us all,” Doherty wrote.

While the coronavirus pandemic did a number on Long Tall Sally’s sales, with the economic outlook becoming too uncertain for its shareholders to continue to support the business, the retailer was having problems in the years prior, particularly on the physical front. Long Tall Sally shuttered its remaining nine U.K. stores and 16 locations across Germany and North America between 2018 and 2019 upon implementing a turnaround plan. In October, Long Tall Sally CEO Andrew Shapin departed and has since not been replaced.

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AK Retail hasn’t ruled out a return to brick and mortar, hinting in a statement that it may open stores at some point as its start developing the brand. The company also will hire up to 30 people to work for the brand at AK’s Peterborough, U.K., headquarters, with the primary focus shifting to the North American market, where Long Tall Sally generates approximately half of its sales. AK Retail employs roughly 1,200 total staff members.

The pandemic impacted AK Retail to the tune of a 22-million-pound ($28.8 million) sales loss across its businesses, but the company’s most recently released full-year financial figures from before the crisis painted a picture of a retail group in solid financial standing. For the fiscal year ending in February 2019, AK Retail saw record figures with profits rising to 13.6 million pounds ($17.9 million) and sales reaching 105.9 million pounds ($138.7 million). The company has not released annual results this year.

“We are thrilled to be able to bring Long Tall Sally into our family of retailers,” Andrew Killingsworth, owner and CEO of AK Retail Holdings, said in a statement. “The brand is one we are proud to own and we look forward to engaging in meaningful dialogue with Long Tall Sally customers, developing the offer and taking the brand to the next stage.”

Long Tall Sally caters to a niche customer—the brand sells exclusively designed apparel from sizes 4 to 20 and shoes sized 9 to 15—and offers a unique value proposition, especially if AK Retail is willing to be a more patient owner. Additionally, competition in the field is sparse. From 2009 to 2017, Long Tall Sally went on an acquisition spree of sorts, gobbling up international competitors including Canada’s Tall Girl Shop, Dutch seller Pretty Tall, German merchant Long Fashion, U.S. shop Long Elegant Legs, and U.S. tall footwear retailer Barefoot Tess.

Investment firm Amery Capital, which bought Long Tall Sally in 2005, sold the fashion e-tailer in 2016 to German e-commerce company TriStyle Mode, which also owns fashion brands Peter Hahn and Madeline. TriStyle Mode itself is owned by European private equity firm Equistone Partners.

Despite Equistone’s aversion to supporting the retailer through the COVID-19 pandemic, Long Tall Sally was not put into administration, unlike many other U.K.-based fashion brands that were forced to file for bankruptcy in the wake of store closures and poor sales results.