19 November 2020 20:53
The fashion chains Peacocks, Jaeger, Austin Reed and Jacques Vert have collapsed into administration, putting nearly 4,800 jobs at risk. The retailers are all part of entrepreneur Philip Day's Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group (EWM), which warned last month it was on the brink of collapse. The Cardiff-based budget fashion chain Peacocks, which Albert Peacock founded as a penny bazaar in Warrington, Cheshire, in 1884, employs 4,369 staff across its 423 stores. The Jaeger business also includes the formalwear chains Jacques Vert and Austin Reed. No redundancies or permanent store closures have so far been announced, and administrators said the businesses would continue to trade while they consider options for their future.
Tony Wright, a joint administrator and partner at the advisory firm FRP, said: "Jaeger and Peacocks are attractive brands that have suffered the well-known challenges that many retailers face at present. Physical retailers have been hit by a combination of changing habits, rising costs and broader economic problems as well as the coronavirus pandemic. Companies such as Amazon have an unfair advantage because they have a lower business rate bill, which holds down costs and enables online retailers to woo shoppers with low prices. Business rates are taxes, based on the value of commercial property, that are imposed on traditional retailers with physical stores. Retailers with a high street presence want the government to change business rates to even up the tax burden with online players and to adapt more quickly to the rapidly changing market.
EWM added: "Therefore, as directors, we have taken the desperately difficult decision to place Peacocks and Jaeger into administration while those talks continue. Two other chains owned by Day – Edinburgh Woollen Mill, which specialises in knitwear and fashions for the over-50s, and Ponden Mill homewares – called in administrators earlier this month. A number of other small brands that are part of Day's main group – including the women's fashion label Jane Norman and the knitwear label James Pringle – are not in administration. Bonmarché, the ailing 50-plus women's fashion chain, which Day controls via a separate investment vehicle, is also not part of the latest administration process. All fashion retailers were already under pressure from a slowdown in spending on clothing, but the shift to working from home, high street lockdowns, the fall in tourist numbers and the closure of pubs, clubs and bars have all increased the financial woes. A string of department store closures in recent years, including more than 40 Debenhams sites, at least 11 House of Fraser outlets and eight John Lewis stores have also hit smaller brands such as Jaeger, Jacques Vert and Austin Reed. The future of Debenhams continues to hang in the balance, as it owners consider potential rescue bids, while House of Fraser has warned it is likely to close more stores next year. Clothing chains Peacocks and Jaeger have failed to find a buyer putting thousands of jobs at risk. Earlier this month, a spokesperson for owner EWM Group said they had been speaking to several potential buyers who were interested in parts of the business. Tony Wright, joint administrator of the business from FRP Advisory, said: "Jaeger and Peacocks are attractive brands that have suffered the well-known challenges that many retailers face at present. A spokesperson for EWM Group said: "In recent weeks we have had constructive discussions with a number of potential buyers for Peacocks and Jaeger Ltd but the continuing deterioration of the retail sector due to the impact of the pandemic and second lockdown have made this process longer and more complex than we would have hoped. "While those talks are ongoing, we no longer have an option to extend the standstill agreement originally imposed by the High Court six weeks ago any further." The group operates close to a thousand stores in the UK, comprising 265 Edinburgh Woollen Mill stores, 479 Peacocks stores, 107 Ponden Home stores, 88 tourist shops and visitor centres trading under various fascias (such as James Pringle Weavers), 27 destination sites combining all the Group's concepts and a number of tourist attractions, including the Scottish Deer Centre in Fife and the Scottish Wool Centre in Perthshire. Fashion chains Peacocks and Jaeger have gone into administration - putting more than 4,700 jobs at risk after the latest lockdown hampered efforts to find a buyer. It came after owner EWM group, controlled by retail billionaire Philip Day, passed a deadline to sell the two brands - which between them have about 500 stores. The group said it had to take the "desperately difficult" decision despite having been in "constructive discussions" with potential buyers in recent weeks. "The continuing deterioration of the retail sector due to the impact of the pandemic and second lockdown have made this process longer and more complex than we would have hoped," it said. Talks were ongoing but a deadline imposed by the High Court could not be pushed back any further, the group added. The announcement was the latest sign of the devastating impact the pandemic is having on businesses across the economy - and on the same day that figures showed one in seven firms fear they will not make it beyond the next three months. Advisory firm FRP has been appointed to handle the administration of Peacocks and Jaeger. London-based Jaeger has 76 stores and concessions, employing 347 staff, while Cardiff-based Peacocks operates 423 stores with 4,369 staff, FRP said. Tony Wright, joint administrator and partner at FRP, said: "Jaeger and Peacocks are attractive brands that have suffered the well-known challenges that many retailers face at present. EWM Group had already placed its Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Ponden Home brands into administration earlier this month. Retail has been one of the sectors worst hit by the economic impact of the pandemic, with chains from Marks and Spencer and John Lewis to Boots and DW Sports announcing thousands of job cuts.