Agencies vie for £8m Barclay twins' Shop Direct task

LONDON - The Barclay brothers' home shopping division, Shop Direct, is looking for an agency to handle its media account, estimated to be worth more than £8m.

This follows last week's decision by the Competition Commission to give the Barclays, who already own the Littlewoods retail empire, permission to acquire the catalogue division of GUS and fold it into its Shop Direct subsidiary.

Shop Direct comprises brands including the Kays catalogues, Marshall Ward, Choice and Style Plus. The Barclays have also bought the dormant Innovations catalogue business, which agency sources suggest they plan to resurrect, and the Additions catalogue -- formerly known as Argos Additions -- which is distributed via Boots stores.

The Shop Direct business, formerly known as ARG Equation, is currently with Universal McCann Manchester and spends a large proportion of its ad budget on press and direct media.

Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay, who are trying to buy the Telegraph Group, set up a new company -- March UK, under the chairmanship of the Littlewoods chairman, David Simons -- to acquire all the GUS subsidiaries that made up its home shopping and home delivery business for £550m.

Because the twins are likely to want to eventually merge its Shop Direct division into Littlewoods, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry referred the acquisition to the Competition Commission for investigation under the Fair Trading Act.

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