Australian Retailing: Who's Gone Bust or Retrenched? A Catch-up on Events End-2019 to 2020

by Centre For Retail Research Retail Briefings Who’s Gone Bust Briefings

For a few years now, Australian retailing has been hit by a combination of new competitors, the onward march of online retailing, and changes in consumer tastes and habits. As in many other countries, large retail chains have suffered rising occupancy and labour costs and weak demand that have made at least some once-profitable businesses pretty marginal. 

Global Giants Disappear: Australian retailing has suffered from losing companies like Espirit, Karen Millen, Gap, Avon, Laura Ashley, Toys R Us, Bose, and Top Shop, which have retrenched mainly because the chill winds of competition in their home markets have forced them to cut back many of their operations, in some cases terminally.

Here are some of the major Australian retail business failures and those that have retrenched in the period from late-2019 to July 2020. 

Collette, the accessories/handbags chain, which went into vol. administration early in 2020, has now been rescued (by Berbie Brookes), although only 25 of its 126 stores will remain. 200 staff are to be made redundant, leaving 100 permanent staff plus 200 casuals. It closed 33 stores when it entered administration in February.

T M Lewin, the shirts and accessories retailer with four stores, went into voluntary administration early in July 2020, a few days after its UK-based parent went into administration. There are around forty employees in Australia.  

Seafolly, the Australian leisurewear group (founded in 1975), went into voluntary administration at the end of June 2020. It has 44 stores and employs 120 staff. Easrly in July the admiistrators announced that 25 Sunburn-brand stores will close, the remainder will continue to trading. The cash-flow problems caused by coronavirus caused the downfall of this business. There are also 12 international stores overseas.

Jigsaw announced at the end of May 2020 that its five Australian stores are to close: Jigsaw is withdrawing from the Australian market. The parent company is concentrating on its home market in the UK. Jigsaw's online site for Australian shoppers has already closed. Presumably the concessions in other Australian department stores will be phased out, although we have seen no confirmation of this. 

Mosaic, owner of retail brands including Noni B, Katies, Millers, Rockmans and Rivers, has threated to close more than 300 of its stores over the next two years unless landlords agree to its rent-reduction strategy. Its most-recent financial report shows a loss of $170.5m. There are 1,333 stores which were non-trading between April and June 2020, leading to a -16.5% drop in sales for the business.

PAS Group, the 225-store athleisure retailer selling Dunlop, Slazenger, Lonsdale, JETS Swimwear, Marco Polo and other leading brands, went into voluntary administration at the end of May 2020. It cited the collapse in sales resulting from the coronavirus lockdown and the need for the business to restructure. There are 1,800 employees.

Tuchuzy, Sydney-based contemporary design house, went in administration in May.

Target, department and box store chain owned by Wesfarmers, is to close 75 department stores and convert around 85-90 other stores to Kmart operations, losing more than 1,200 jobs in the process. Currently Target has 284 stores. It expects to convert 52 Country stores to Kmart and up to 40 large Target stores. One-half of the number of head-office staff are to be made redundant. 

G-star Raw, the jeans retailer (G-Star Australia Pty Ltd) owned in the Netherlands, went into voluntary administration in mid-May.  It has 57 branches and almost 200 employees. 

Aussie Disposals, the Australian camping and sports business, went into administration with 23 company-owned stores and 13 franchisees. They expect to close half their company stores and continue trading. The business had been badly-affected first by Australia’s bush fires and later the coronavirus outbreak, which cut demand for camping equipment.

Kikki. K, a Swedish design stationery chain, went into voluntary administration in March 2020, but continues to trade. It owned 65 stores in Australia, the Far East, the UK and U.S.

Meridith and Moore, the Melbourne-based fashion retailer with 16 stores, went into administration in April and continues to trade.

Tigerlily, a women's clothing and swimsuit retailer  with around 30 stores, went into voluntary administration, having lost Aus$2.6m on retail sales of Aus$37.1m.

E B Games, the video-game retailer (Electronic Boutique Australia), announced it was closing 19 unprofitable stores. In future it expects to open more large units combining EB Games with Zing Pop Culture (a subsidiary selling pop merchandise, collectibles,. figures, etc ) . There are about 280 EB Games stores and 100 Zing Pop Culture outlets.

Collette at Collette Hayman, an Australian handbag, jewellery and accessories chain, went into voluntary administration in February 2020 with 140 stores and 300 employees.

Kaufland, the German-owned grocery giant (the Schwartz Group), spent Aus$523m on developing hypermarkets and warehousing in Australia on 23 construction sites. In February 2020, it abandoned the Australian market and seeks to sell its Australian partly-built projects to other buyers.

JeansWest is an Australian clothing retailer that went into voluntary administration in December 2019. It has now been bought out of administration by Harbour Guidance Pty. The number of stores has been cut from 146 to 106. 263 staff have lost their jobs.

Harris Scarfe, Australian bedding and homewares retailer founded in 1849, was put into administration a few months after being acquired by Allegro private equity group. Since then it has been bought out of administration by the Spotlight Group. The 66 stores they had at administration are now 44, although further reductions in store numbers are still possible. Staff numbers have fallen from 1,800 to 1,400. The company has changed hands several times and was recently owned by Pepkor, then Steinhoff (which sold the business following an accounting scandal in SA).

Stylerunner, the activewear retailer of choice for the aussie privileged young, expanded quickly as an online player to reach Aus$50m then went into receivership in October 2019. It is now part of the Accent Group

Dimmeys, a 160-year old Australian department store that had become a bargain-basement homewares business (so much for The Wheel of Retailing theory), announced in November 2019 it would start to close down its 31 stores and online operations. But by February 2020 there was news of a move to save at least some of the Dimmeys always a bargain stores in the State of Victoria.

Bardot, another Australian fashion retailer, went into voluntary administration in November 2019 with 72 stores and 800 staff. All its stores have closed and it is to be re-born as an online-online only business.

Zanui, one of the most popular furniture and homewares brands, went into voluntary administration late in 2019 after having a terrible Black Friday. The company was soon acquired by Marlin Brands, which acts as a consumer brands wholesaler. Zanui has continued as a pure-play e-commerce retailer. 

Curious Planet, a books-and-leisure enterprise (originally a student-led mutual, Co-op Bookshops) with 63 stores, at one time the second-largest bookshop in Australia, went into voluntary administration in November 2019 after failing to attract a buyer. The stores have been closed and the online business being sold to Booktopia.  

Napoleon Perdis, a beauty chain with 56 stores, went into administration and has closed down.    

Ed Harry, an Australian menswear chain with 87 stores and 498 staff has closed down..

Roger David, another Australian menswear company, has closed with 57 stores.

Ishka, a family-owned homewares chain with 60 stores and 450 staff, went into administration. Aus$3m in imported goods for Christmas and the summer season was held under quarantine meaning that Ishka had a poor Christmas and summer.