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Grimsey sets out vision for Focus

Bill Grimsey, the newly appointed chief executive of DIY chain Focus, is to review the future of the group's 50 worst-performing stores.

The review, which is being carried out with the help of retail restructuring specialist Hilco, is likely to result in the sale or closure of the under-performing stores.

"There is a very good business lurking behind a lot of debt," Mr Grimsey said. "I am very excited. It is a territory we know."

Mr Grimsey led the recovery of Wickes, alongside finance director Bill Hoskins, who will also join Focus when the sale to Cerberus is completed next month.

The pair joined Wickes in 1996 when the retailer was on the verge of collapse.

Shortly after they joined they organised a rescue rights issue at 150p per share.

The business was sold four years later to Focus for 495p per share, valuing the group at £289m, in a deal that created the UK's third largest DIY business, behind B&Q and Homebase. The duo went on to run Iceland, the troubled food retailer.

Mr Grimsey said his aim was to re-establish "Focus as the DIY store of choice in small market towns".

Key would be working with suppliers to help create a third force in DIY retailing to challenge the dominance of B&Q and Homebase, he added.

"This deal will give the supplier base enormous comfort. They can stop worrying about whether they will get paid and work with us to grow the business.

"They know me. They know my style. We have worked together before."

While he waits for the deal to complete, Mr Grimsey plans to embark on an incognito tour of Focus stores across the country. There was a pool of talented retail talent in the business, he said.

"Store managers have not had the product to put on the shelves. Now they can take a deep breath and focus on the business," he said.

Focus, he added, would continue to target female shoppers despite Mr Grimsey's success at Wickes at attracting small builders and serious DIYers.

"We will obviously take those skills with us, but we are not going to turn Focus into Wickes," he said.

Private equity firm Cerberus has bought the business for £1 from Apax Partners and Duke Street Capital. The group's lenders will receive 40p for every pound they are owed.

Possible buyers for the Focus stores could include Asda, which has embarked on an aggressive roll-out of its non-food format Asda Living format, which sells clothing, jewellery, homewares, electrical appliances, DVDs and toys.

Home Retail Group - the Argos-to-Homebase retail conglomerate - could also be interested in the stores, which could be converted to its trial Home Store + more format.

Source : Richard Fletcher, Telegraph.co.uk

19 June 2007
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