Fashion store entrepreneur to chair JTF club

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RETAIL entrepreneur Tim Whitworth is to become chairman of JTF after buying a stake in the discount shopping club.

The former chief executive of the Republic fashion chain has invested alongside existing shareholder Endless, the Leeds-based private equity house.

JTF has 12 stores, mainly in out-of-town locations across the North and the Midlands.

It has sales of £70m and markets to its 500,000 members by email and direct mail.

Mr Whitworth, 42, told the Yorkshire Post that JTF champions the customer, through value, price and service.

“It’s a very hot sector at the moment and I think we can be more competitive given the space that we occupy out of town,” he said.

“I like the space and clearly I love retail and think there is a great opportunity to start something very similar to what we started at Republic 10 years ago.”

Mr Whitworth led a turnaround at the firm, opened 100 new stores and expanded sales from £20m to £250m.

He eventually sold Republic to US private equity house TPG for £300m in 2010.

Mr Whitworth has since invested his wealth in a number of businesses through his company Tim Group Holdings.

These include recruitment site Shortlister.com, motor dealer Yorkshire Classic & Sports Cars, sales agent Intelligent Business Transfer and upmarket retailer Weetons Food Hall. He said that the rise of discounters like JTF is not a race to the bottom. “Price is one element of value. It is not the only one,” he added.

He is working alongside JTF chief executive Paul McClenaghan, a former commercial director at Halfords plc.

Mr Clenaghan said: “Tim’s wealth of retail experience, drive and perspective will be of great benefit to the board, and wider business, and we warmly welcome him.”

Mr Whitworth said store roll-outs and e-commerce are logical next steps for the business, which was bought by Endless in 2009. In December, JTF invested £580,000 in a new site in Leeds, creating 17 new jobs. The Endless portfolio of companie has a turnover of £1.5bn and more than 12,000 employees.

Sports Direct bought Republic from administrators in February 2013.

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