ECI posts mail order exit

US buyouts house TA Associates has acquired a majority stake in UK online and mail order company M and M Direct from ECI Partners for an undisclosed sum.

M and M is based in Leominster, West Midlands, and specializes in buying end-of-line clearance stock from fashion and sports clothing and footwear brands and selling them at reduced prices. It was founded in 1987 and specialized purely in sportswear, but since ECI backed it in 2004, it has expanded its range. The company now sells more than 230 brands of men’s, women’s and children’s apparel and footwear, including Adidas, Animal, Bench, Levis, Miss Sixty, Nike, Puma, Quiksilver, Reebok,Timberland and Vans.

David Ewing, ECI Partners director, commented, “Thoughtful repositioning and re-branding, coupled with the increasing acceptance of the Internet as a channel, has resulted in strong growth for M and M. We are very pleased to have contributed to the company’s growth, and wish Mike and the team continued success.”

CEO Mike Tomkins is stepping down into a non-executive director role to be replaced by Steve Robinson, former CEO of Tesco Direct and previously finance director of Argos.

Online shopping in the UK is expected to continue its exceptional growth, with internet research group IMRG estimates the market will achieve £42b in sales in 2007, up 39% from £30.2bn in 2006, and will grow to £78bn by 2010.