Business Fashion

Up to 21,500 jobs at risk as Jaeger and Austin Reed owner prepares to appoint administrators

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Up to 21,500 jobs are at risk at Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group – the owner of Jaeger, Peacocks and Austin Reed – as the retailer teeters on the brink of administration.

The group, owned by the entrepreneur Philip Day, has filed a notice of intention to appoint administrators, a legal document that provides protection from creditors for 10 days.

The group, which has 1,100 stores and concessions, about half of which are Peacocks outlets, had been seeking a buyer for some weeks and will spend the next few weeks considering its options.

Day, a former executive at the traditional British brand Aquascutum, who lives in Switzerland and owns a castle in Cumbria, built up his retail empire by acquiring a string of businesses out of administration.

He got his first big break in 2001, as part of the £49m private equity-backed buyout of the purveyor of knitwear to the middle-aged Edinburgh Woollen Mill. After buying out his co-investors, Day picked up the homewares group Ponden Mill, the young fashion brand Jane Norman and then, in 2012, the cut-price fashion chain Peacocks. He snapped up Austin Reed in 2016 and Jaeger in 2017 when he tried launching his own department store, Days, in Carmarthen. Last year, Day also bought the fashion chain Bonmarché, via a separate investment vehicle from the EWM Group, and put that into administration. Bonmarché, which employs about 2,500 people, is not affected by the potential administration process announced on Friday.

Edinburgh Woollen Mill (EWM) said it was “responding to the harsh trading conditions caused by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and a recent reduction in its credit insurance”.

Quick guide

UK retail and hospitality job cuts on back of Covid-19 crisis



Whitbread – 6,000 jobs

22 September: Whitbread, which owns the Premier Inn, Beefeater and Brewers Fayre chains, said it would cut 6,000 jobs at its hotels and restaurants, almost one in five of its workforce

Pizza Express – 1,100 jobs
7 September: The restaurant chain confirms the closure of 73 restaurants as part of a rescue restructure deal.

Costa Coffee – 1,650 jobs
3 September: The company, which was bought by Coca-Cola two years ago, is cutting up to 1,650 jobs in its cafes, more than one in 10 of its workforce. The assistant store manager role will go across all shops.

Pret a Manger – 2,890 jobs
27 August: The majority of the cuts are focused on the sandwich chain’s shop workers, but 90 roles will be lost in its support centre teams. The cuts include the 1,000 job losses announced on 6 July.

Marks & Spencer – 7,000 jobs
18 August: Food, clothing and homewares retailer cuts jobs in central support centre, regional management and stores.

M&Co – 400 jobs
5 August: M&Co, the Renfrewshire-based clothing retailer, formerly known as Mackays, will close 47 of 215 stores.

WH Smith – 1,500 jobs
5 August: The chain, which sells products ranging from sandwiches to stationery, will cut jobs mainly in UK railway stations and airports. 

Dixons Carphone – 800 jobs
4 August: Electronics retailer Dixons Carphone is cutting 800 managers in its stores as it continues to reduce costs.

DW Sports – 1,700 jobs at risk
3 August: DW Sports fell into administration, closing its retail website immediately and risking the closure of its 150 gyms and shops.

Marks & Spencer – 950 jobs
20 July: The high street stalwart cuts management jobs in stores as well as head office roles related to property and store operations.

Ted Baker – 500 jobs
19 July: About 200 roles to go at the fashion retailer’s London headquarters, the Ugly Brown Building, and the remainder at stores.

Azzurri – 1,200 jobs
17 July: The owner of the Ask Italian and Zizzi pizza chains closes 75 restaurants and makes its Pod lunch business delivery only

Burberry – 500 jobs worldwide
15 July: Total includes 150 posts in UK head offices as luxury brand tries to slash costs by £55m after a slump in sales during the pandemic.

Boots – 4,000 jobs
9 July: Boots is cutting 4,000 jobs – or 7% of its workforce – by closing 48 opticians outlets and reducing staff at its head office in Nottingham as well as some management and customer service roles in stores.

John Lewis – 1,300 jobs
9 July: John Lewis announced that it is planning to permanently close eight of its 50 stores, including full department stores in Birmingham and Watford, with the likely loss of 1,300 jobs.

Celtic Manor – 450 jobs
9 July: Bosses at the Celtic Collection in Newport, which staged golf’s Ryder Cup in 2010 and the 2014 Nato Conference, said 450 of its 995 workers will lose their jobs.

Pret a Manger – 1,000 jobs
6 July: Pret a Manger is to permanently close 30 branches and could cut at least 1,000 jobs after suffering “significant operating losses” as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown

Casual Dining Group – 1,900 jobs
2 July: The owner of the Bella Italia, Café Rouge and Las Iguanas restaurant chains collapsed into administration, with the immediate loss of 1,900 jobs. The company said multiple offers were on the table for parts of the business but buyers did not want to acquire all the existing sites and 91 of its 250 outlets would remain permanently closed.

Arcadia – 500 jobs
1 July: Arcadia, Sir Philip Green’s troubled fashion group – which owns Topshop, Miss Selfridge, Dorothy Perkins, Burton, Evans and Wallis – said in July 500 head office jobs out of 2,500 would go in the coming weeks.

SSP Group – 5,000 jobs
1 July: The owner of Upper Crust and Caffè Ritazza is to axe 5,000 jobs, about half of its workforce, with cuts at its head office and across its UK operations after the pandemic stalled domestic and international travel.

Harrods – 700 jobs
1 July: The department store group is cutting one in seven of its 4,800 employees because of the “ongoing impacts” of the pandemic.

Harveys – 240 jobs
30 June: Administrators made 240 redundancies at the furniture chain Harveys, with more than 1,300 jobs at risk if a buyer cannot be found.

TM Lewin – 600 jobs
30 June: Shirtmaker TM Lewin closed all 66 of its outlets permanently, with the loss of about 600 jobs.

Monsoon Accessorize – 545 jobs
11 June: The fashion brands were bought out of administration by their founder, Peter Simon, in June, in a deal in which 35 stores closed permanently and 545 jobs were lost.

Mulberry – 470 jobs
8 June: The luxury fashion and accessories brand is to cut 25% of its global workforce and has started a consultation with the 470 staff at risk.

The Restaurant Group – 3,000 jobs
3 June: The owner of dining chains such as Wagamama and Frankie & Benny’s has closed most branches of Chiquito and all 11 of its Food & Fuel pubs, with another 120 restaurants to close permanently. Total job losses could reach 3,000.

Clarks – 900 jobs
21 May: Clarks plans to cut 900 office jobs worldwide as it grapples with the growth of online shoe shopping as well as the pandemic.

Oasis and Warehouse – 1,800 jobs
30 April: The fashion brands were bought out of administration by the restructuring firm Hilco in April, with all of their stores permanently closed and 1,800 jobs lost.

Cath Kidston – 900 jobs
21 April: More than 900 jobs were cut immediately at the retro retail label Cath Kidston after the company said it was permanently closing all 60 of its UK stores.

Debenhams – 4,000 jobs
9 April: At least 4,000 jobs will be lost at Debenhams in its head office and closed stores after its collapse into administration in April, for the second time in a year.

Laura Ashley – 2,700 jobs
17 March: Laura Ashley collapsed into administration, with 2,700 job losses, and said rescue talks had been thwarted by the pandemic.

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Credit insurance – which suppliers take out to cover orders yet to be paid for – was withdrawn two weeks ago amid a dispute over £27m that Bangladeshi factories say they are owed.

EWM said it had received a number of expressions of interest for parts of the group in recent weeks and that these were being assessed along with “all other options”.

However, the chief executive of EWM, Steve Simpson, said there would “inevitably be significant cuts and closures” and the group would appoint FRP Advisory as administrators to carry “necessary restructuring” of the business.

Sources said that Austin Reed and Jane Norman, both of which now operate only online, were most likely to be shut down for good.

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Simpson said: “Like every retailer, we have found the past seven months extremely difficult. This situation has grown worse in recent weeks as we have had to deal with a series of false rumours about our payments and trading, which have impacted our credit insurance.

“Traditionally, EWM has always traded with strong cash reserves and a conservative balance sheet but these stories and the reduction in credit insurance, against the backdrop of the initial lockdown, current local lockdowns, and the second wave of Covid-19 reducing footfall, have made normal trading impossible.

“As directors we have a duty to the business, our staff, our customers and our creditors to find the very best solution in this brutal environment.”

Analysts at the market research firm GlobalData said EWM had suffered because its older customer base was more reluctant to visit stores during the coronavirus pandemic, while it had not developed its online proposition as much as some rivals.

Patrick O’Brien at GlobalData said Day had bought up a collection of weak brands that didn’t have a lot of appeal to potential buyers of the business and so the most likely outcome was a pre-pack administration restructure in which Day would buy back more successful elements of EWM Group. He said the continuing coronavirus crisis had forced Day to act.

“Retailers were hoping Covid was only going to be affecting a short period of lockdown and then they would be able to recover. That is no longer the case and if we look into 2021, it is unlikely footfall is going to recover to pre-pandemic levels for some time. Where retailers are disproportionately exposed to older age groups, [those people] are going to be isolating and if they have not already been converted to shopping online, you are going to struggle,” O’Brien said.


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