18 October 2019 22:32
The Scottish department store group Watt Brothers has collapsed into administration with the immediate loss of nearly 230 jobs and about 80 more at risk. All 11 of the group's stores were closed on Friday, but the flagship outlet on Glasgow's Sauchiehall Street will open on 19 October for a clearance sale as administrators from KPMG seek a potential buyer. The fourth-generation family-owned chain was founded when farmer's son Allan Watt set up a drapery shop in Glasgow in the late 1800s. Retailers with a high-street presence want the government to change business rates. Sales for the group rose 14% last year to £24m but KPMG said Watt Brothers had continued to make losses in 2018 and 2019 after falling £680,641 into the red in 2017.
Blair Nimmo, joint administrator and UK head of restructuring at KPMG, said: "Despite the director's tireless efforts to increase margins, cut costs and recapitalise the business, Watt Brothers continued to incur trading losses as a result of the well-publicised challenges being experienced across the retail sector." Watt Brothers' demise comes after a difficult few years for department stores, which have faced tough competition from the rise of online shopping and increased costs, particularly on business rates. The latest government data on retail spending revealed a further slump in department store sales last month, which offset a modest rise in clothing and supermarket food purchases. John Stevenson, a retail analyst at Peel Hunt, said department stores were losing out to online retailers who now sell the beauty and clothing brands that stores once had exclusive access to. Watt Brothers store closures are the latest amid a flood of consolidation across the sector. A further store in Exeter is set to close next month and several more are expected to close after Christmas, as the most recent figures showed the chain losing more than £1m a week.
FUMING Watt Brothers staff will be left without wages just two months before Christmas after the department store's shock closure. 229 staff across 11 stores were made redundant with immediate effect today - with many only finding out from news articles and social media. 5 Watt Brothers entered administration today - leaving more than 200 staff out of a job Credit: Alamy An anonymous source said: "I'm on holiday with a friend from work and we were sent an article saying the Glasgow store had shut. "We called up and the store manager put us through to someone from the administrators who said we were being made redundant. "She told me Watt Brothers wouldn't be paying my wages. TIMELINE OF WATT BROTHERS Early 1900s - An initial foray into the bustling city environment of Glasgow saw Allan Watt open up a shop in the city's Elmbank Street. - An initial foray into the bustling city environment of Glasgow saw Allan Watt open up a shop in the city's Elmbank Street. - During the First World War, in April, 1915, Watt Brothers is formed as a limited company. - A significant extension to the Glasgow store opened after plans were made by architect's firm Keppie and Henderson, one of whose founding partners worked closely with the globally acclaimed designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh. - A new Watt Brothers shop opened in the Glasgow suburb of Clarkston. - In the 60s and following decades other stores open in Lanark, Ayr, Livingston and Hamilton. - Extensive renovations were made at the company's flagship store in Glasgow to adapt to changing shopping trends and customer trends. - Current owner William Watt, great grandson of the founder, joins the business at the age of 15. - Current owner, William Watt, takes over the role of company managing director at the age of 26. - The company opened a new store in Lanark. - The expansion continues and a store is opened in Ayr. 2005 - The Watt Brother store network extends to Livingston. - The Watt Brother store network extends to Livingston. - Another new store is opened – this time in Hamilton. - A major new store opened in the Clydebank Shopping Centre, setting a trend for opening bigger premises in retail parks. - A brand new store opened in Irvine and the company's established Ayr store moved to new town centre premises, doubling its retail floorspace. She said: "We've been asking managers for the last few months if we were going to close but they had no idea. 5 Watt Brothers has 11 stores across Scotland Have you been affected by Watt Brothers going into administration? One worker spent 16 years in the flagship store in Glasgow and had their day off ruined when they found out they lost their job via social media. 5 Family business Watt Brothers is more than 100 years old Watt Brothers own 11 stores across the country, including Ayr, Irvine, Lanark and Falkirk, as well as the flagship store in Glasgow city centre. Allan Watt opened the company's first shop in Elmbank Street in the early 1900s. Current owner William Watt, Allan's great grandson, joined the company aged 15 in 1982, taking over as managing director 11 years later. Blair Nimmo, Joint Administrator and UK Head of Restructuring at KPMG, said: "Despite the director's tireless efforts to increase margins, cut costs and recapitalise the business, Watt Brothers continued to incur trading losses as a result of the well-publicised challenges being experienced across the retail sector.