Indeed, industry observers agree that the publicly quoted House of Fraser will likely be next on investors’ lists, and may well be the target of a management buyout. “There’s room to expand that business, and management would probably love to do it without interference from the financial world,” said Maureen Hinton, a senior retail analyst at Verdict Research, a consultancy based here. And Weston already has at least a partial link to House of Fraser — Andrew Jennings, chief executive of Holt Renfrew, once ran the 53-store U.K. chain, which had sales last year of $1.55 billion.
So why all the interest in British department stores now? The simple answer appears to be return on investment. “Selfridges is a very profitable business right now,” said Whitefield of Management Horizons. “If Weston had put his millions in the bank, he’d be getting a 6 percent return on it. At Selfridges, he’ll get more than that.”
Selfridges shares closed today at $6.40, up 11.95 percent from the previous day's close. Debenhams shares closed at $6.60, up 23.73 percent from the day before.