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Swansea apparel company secures multimillion-pound investment

Owners of Character.com Stephen and Karen Hewitt

BGF, the UK and Ireland’s most active growth capital investor, has completed a multi-million-pound investment to acquire a 23% stake in Swansea-based Character.com, the market leading online retailer of children’s licensed apparel and accessories.

Founded in 2009 by husband-and-wife team Stephen and Karen Hewitt, Character.com is a dynamic character clothing retailer with a focus on children’s products which has featured on the Sunday Times Fast Track 100 for four consecutive years.

Revenue has grown from less than £10 million in FYE Jul-17 to over £50 million in FYE Jul-21. From its South Wales base, Character.com services customers across the UK, Europe and North America.

Over the past 12 years, it has become one of the largest online retailers in its market by offering popular brands and maintaining a strong focus on customer service and quality.

Karen Hubbard joins the board at completion as non-executive Chair. Karen has significant experience in retail through her career at The Card Factory, B&M and Asda and is currently Chair at Redu Group and BGF-backed Moteefe. Karen’s appointment is the result of an introduction from BGF’s Talent Network, which is the UK’s largest pool of non-executive directors.

BGF has significant expertise in consumer products, brand and e-commerce businesses, having invested nearly £460 million in over 60 companies in the sector. BGF portfolio companies include Gousto, Seasalt, Ruroc, Thompson & Morgan, Source BMX, Christopher Ward and Spoke. Last year BGF successfully exited Direct Online Services, the UK’s leading online retailer of kitchen worktops, adding to previous successful exits in the space.

Co-founder and Managing Director Stephen Hewitt said: “We are delighted to agree a partnership with BGF. We have grown our business substantially since founding it in 2009, and it was hugely important to us that we found a partner which would support us to drive the next phase of growth whilst maintaining the culture and brand which we love. We have found this in BGF, and we are excited about realising our future plans for the business together.

“The retail environment is changing fast but there are some really exciting opportunities out there for us as a business. In addition,Grant Thornton’s advice throughout the process was invaluable and we would not have achieved the outcome we have without their support. We wouldn’t hesitate in recommending the team.”

Edwin Davies led the deal for BGF alongside Hannah Waters and Alex Garfitt. BGF’s investment in Character.com marks the second multi-million-pound deal in Wales within a week, after BGF completed a £14 million investment in Victorian Sliders, a South Wales based business which is the UK’s only fully integrated, specialist manufacturer of uPVC sash windows.

Edwin Davies, Investor at BGF, commented: “It’s a great time to work with an expanding and ambitious company like Character.com. We are delighted to be backing another great Welsh business and are looking forward to partnering with the team to support the long-term growth of the business. Steve and Karen are a really strong team with a clear plan for the future and we are excited to be part of their journey.”

Grant Thornton Corporate Finance Director, Jamie Roberts added: “Character.com is a hugely impressive business which has grown at a stellar rate under Stephen and Karen’s direction. We are thrilled to have completed this deal for the shareholders and are excited to see the next phase of the business’ growth in partnership with BGF.”