A backer of Wayfair is in advanced talks to buy one of the UK’s best-known online retailers.

A US-based investment firm is in advanced talks to buy Notonthehighstreet, the British-based online personalised gifts retailer.

Sky News has learnt that Great Hill Partners, which has backed companies including the home furnishings site Wayfair and Momondo, the digital travel group, is close to agreeing a deal to buy the 15-year-old company.

Notonthehighstreet has been effectively up for sale for several months, when it hired bankers at Evercore to explore a transaction.

The price that Great Hill will pay for the site was unclear on Friday, although people close to the process had previously signalled that it was likely to attract offers of around £150m.

It was also unclear whether Great Hill would take full ownership of the business, although people close to the process said they expected it to buy a majority stake.

Great Hill has backed scores of mid-market companies in the US and Europe, raising a $2.5bn fund in 2019 to invest in businesses showing annual earnings growth of at least 15%.

Rival bidders in the process included the London-based private equity firm Exponent.

Notonthehighstreet sells personalised gifts such as books, jewellery and toys, and like other online retailers is understood to have seen a spike in revenues during the COVID-19 crisis.

Founded in 2006, the business is based in Richmond and employs more than 150 people.

It acts as a marketplace for 5000 small business-owners.

Set up by Holly Tucker and Sophie Cornish, the site has become a popular destination for consumers wanting to buy personalised gifts.

Its prominent customers include the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who used the site to buy Prince George a personalised dressing gown that was seen when they met the then-US president Barack Obama in 2016.

In its latest annual report for the 2019 financial year, the company said it had served more than 2.5m customers during the period, but seen total revenues flat compared to the year before at just over £35m.

Its next annual report is due to be published in March.

Notonthehighstreet’s backers include Hubert Burda Media, the German publisher, which became a shareholder in 2016 as part of a £21m fundraising.

Other investors include Index Ventures and an arm of the asset management giant Fidelity.

The company is chaired by Darren Shapland, the former finance chief of J Sainsbury.

His appointment in 2015 sparked speculation that Notonthehighstreet was preparing to float on the stock market, but its performance since then, and its shareholders’ preference for a sale, have led it to launch the auction with Evercore.

In 2019, the company appointed a former HelloFresh executive, Claire Davenport, as its chief executive.

Notonthehighstreet and Great Hill declined to comment.


Source: Sky News

By Mark Kleinman