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Business Growth Fund invests in UK art materials retailer Cass Art

16 Dec 2013

The UK’s Business Growth Fund (BGF) has invested £3.2m for a minority stake in independent art materials retailer Cass Art.

This was BGF’s 11th investment in London and the South East, bringing its total capital committed to fund the expansion of the region’s ambitious companies to £57m.

Founded in 2001 by CEO Mark Cass, the company has six stores across London in Hampstead, Charing Cross, Kingston, Soho and its flagship store in Islington. BGF has backed the companyto roll out new stores in major cities across the UK over the next five years and to develop its newly launched e-commerce platform.

The UK art materials market is highly fragmented with a handful of retailers accounting for just over a quarter of sales. Approximately ten per cent or 180,000 of all UK university students are enrolled in an arts course with enrolment growing by 25 per cent between 2004 and 2010. The market’s fragmentation and growing customer base both offer considerable opportunity for Cass Art to professionalise the UK market, BGF said.

Stuart Rose, the former chairman of toy group Hamleys, ex-managing director and deputy chairman of The Body Shop and former chairman of Agent Provocateur will join the Cass Art board as non-executive chairman. This appointment was made by BGF through its Talent Network. Rory Pope, investment director in London will also join the board as BGF’s representative.

Pope said, “ Since 2001 Cass Art has built a fantastic reputation in the UK for supplying a wide range of quality art materials at affordable prices. The company has a good high street presence in London already but there is clearly the scope and ambition to expand nationally not only their physical presence on the high street but also online via the new e-commerce platform and become the only multi-channel art retailer in UK. For all these reasons, Cass Art is a highly attractive business for us to support and we are delighted to be working with Mark and his team.”

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