Who’s Gone Bust in Retail?

Who’s Gone Bust in UK Retailing 2019? (to 8 November 2019)


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2007-2019 Review

 

Companies failing

Stores Affected

Employees Affected

2019 (to 8 Nov)

37

1,663

42,853

2018 (12 months)

43

2,594

46,014

2017 (12 months)

44

1,383

12,225

2016 (12 months)

30

1,504

26,110

2015 (12 months)

25

728

6,845

2014 (12 months)

43

1,314

12,335

2013 (12 months)

49

2,500

25,140

2012 (12 months)

54

3,951

48,142

2011 (12 months)

31

2,469

24,025

2010 (12 months)

26

944

10,930

2009 (12 months)

37

6,536

26,688

2008 (12 months)

54

5,793

74,539

2007 (12 months)

25

2,600

14,083

Analysis of Major Retail Failures 2008-19


Who’s Gone Bust in 2019 by Company 

  • Mama and Papas, the babywear and baby equipment retailer, went into pre-pack administration a few days after Mothercare. Although it supplies Mothercare, the two events are unrelated. There are 32 stores and more than 740 staff. The company has been bought - sans debt - by associated businesses of its former owner, Bluegem Capital. Six stores are to be closed with approximately 128 staff. 
  • Mothercare, troubled mother-baby-youngster retailer, went into administration early in November 2019. The administrators have announced the closure of its stores 'in weeks or months' although they are still holding talks with interested parties. Some stores started closing-down sales only days after the company went into administration. In 2018, Mothercare used a CVA to cut its store numbers in the expectation that losses would be curbed and most sales from closed outlets would transfer to the remaining stores. However without a radical new programme and strategy few sales transferred to remaining branches. Losses last year were £36.3m. Another CVA missed opportunity. It was once the go-to destination for young mothers. Indeed I remember being marched to the Mothercare in Oxford by my wife-to-be when we had only been going out a few weeks. But that was then. A series of historic problems cut the chain down from almost 400 stores in 2009 to 79 today. There are 2,500 staff. The company’s owners cannot discern a strategy to return the business to profitability and have not found a buyer, hence the only other option has been administration. Meanwhile, the 900-store Mothercare operations in more than 40 other countries are doing well and are not affected by the administration of the UK business. The Irish Mothercare chain is unaffected. Some history. The company started in 1961 as a maternity products, prams and pushchair business. It was regarded as having good IT skills and went early into mail order with the famous Mothercare Catalogue in 1962. It developed quickly and merged with Habitat in 1984, with Conran in the top job. Soon in 1986 the new group took over British Home Stores to create a new retail powerhouse called Storehouse (which including Richard shops). It did not work. Mothercare itself lost focus in the unwieldy large group and had to wait until 1999 before it became a separate business again.    
  • Forever 21, the $6bn US fashion chain with stores in 57 countries, has applied for Chapter 11 (=voluntary bankruptcy) in the U.S.. Its UK operation has entered administration as a result. The U.S. corporation has announced it will cut its store totals from 800 by almost one-half, showing that the corporation has serious trading problems in most countries. The Oxford Street store already has a closing-down sale notice over the door and the Birmingham and Liverpool stores are likely to follow in the New Year. The three stores will run a big £30m clearance sale till after Christmas.  
  • Regis UK and Supercuts, hairdressing salons, went into administration in October. There are 220 salons and 1,200 staff. These are not retailers but an important element of many high streets. They probably expanded too quickly in the early 2010s and have agreed rents that were much too high. Regis UK started a CVA a year ago designed to cut their rent bill. This led to a legal challenge from property owners who thought their contribution to the Regis chain's healthy future was excessive, compared to what was required from other creditors. Higher wage costs from the'living wage' and the levy have also undermined their profitability. Hairdressing competion is now intense with a flood of new entrants on the scene. 
  • Bonmarché, budget clothing chain aimed at the fashion-conscious over-50s shopper with 318 stores, went into administration in mid-October as a result of falling sales and a profits collapse. There are 2,887 employees. The company continues to trade while a buyer is found. The company was bought by Philip Day (Edinburgh Woollen Mill) earlier in 2019, so putting it through administration only a few months later is a conundrum, as Philip Day is regarded a very canny operator. His businesses turn over more than £650m sales through 1,113 stores employing more than 24,000 staff.
  • Watt Brothers, an important department store chain with 11 stores in Central Scotland, went into administration in mid-October after continued yearly losses. 229 employees were made redundant immediately out of 306 staff.  
  • Tomlinsons Dairies, a milk and dairy food supplier with 330 employees, went into administration in mid-October. It is based in Wrexham with additional plants in Chester and Shropshire.
  • Vodafone, the telecoms business, is to close more than 1,100 stores in Europe by the end of 2020 as parts of its plans to focus more on online transactions. There are 7,700 stores, including 421 in the UK. These changes relate to reordering the business rather than cutting costs, the company says. There is no danger of administration.
  • Khaadi Fashion, an Asian retailer with ten stores, went through pre-pack administration. Four outlets are to close, bringing its staff numbers to around 62 staff. It was set up in 2013.
  • Links of London, specialist jeweller with 25 stores and 360 staff, went into long-predicted administration on 8 October. The owners had been seeksing new investment or a CVA, but continuing losses meant they were forced into administration before a new deal could be arranged.
  • Thomas Cook, travel agent and airline company, collapsed into liquidation in September. It is not a retailer, but 560 high-street stores and 9,000 staff are a big part of every high street. Liquidation was chosen because no administrator could stand the risk of running such a huge business until a new owner could be found or Thomas Cook was split up and sold in parcels. However, 555 high street stores were quickly sold at low cost to Hays Travel/Just Go only a week later. This may mean these fears were too pessimistic. The new owners are continuing to operate all stores, but when legally possible they will probably force rents down and/or close part of the estate.  
  • Albemarle & Bond, the high street pawnbroker, has closed all its 113 stores, although it claims to be solvent. Its Japanese owners wish to sell the business. They are believed to have disposed of the loans and goods being used as security to a competitor, H&T, who have declared their intention to support the former Albemarle & Bond clients. H&T have almost 250 branches. It is not yet known whether all secured items have been transferred to H&T and how (or whether) the new regime has been communicated to former clients. In September it was reported that Albemarle & Bond were transferring pledged goods to a fortified unit in Oxford, raising concerns from clients about how yo manage the return of their pledges. 
  • Lingerie Outlet Store, which trades ladies underwear, sportswear and swimsuits using Amazon, eBay and its own website, went into administration in September 2019. It has a strong international market. There are 26 staff.
  • Karen Millen and its subsidiary Coast, fashion companies, sold its online operations to the owners of Boohoo in August 2019, after pre-pack administration. Karen Millen had acquired parts of Coast in October 2018, ‘saving the business’. Karen Millen lost £11.9m in 2017 and £5.7m in 2018. The Company is a further victim of the collapse of Debenhams and Frasers. Administrators say the stores will trade for a period, but most stores will then close. There are 32 stores and 177 concessions, employing 1,100 people. Liquidators have been appointed to the Irish K Millen chain (two stores and 16 concessions).
  • Karen Millen’s (Australia) operations went into voluntary administration in September and is expected to close.
  • Jack Wills, the preppy young person’s fashion outfitter, went into pre-pack administration early in August and was acquired by Sports Direct. There are 100 stores and 1,700 staff, in the UK. The overseas brands in Ireland, the U.S., Hong Kong (already closed), Kuwait, Audi and UAE are being handled separately
  • Gerry Weber, German fashion retailer, is to close its 26 UK/Ireland stores by October 2019 following the parent company’s insolvency. Gerry Weber products will still be available through concessions, stockists and online.
  • Stefanel, part of the Italian womenswear group, went into administration at the end of June following the collapse of its parent company earlier in the week.
  • The Money Shop, a loan, pawnbroking, foreign exchange and cheque-cashing company, is to close or sell its stores in the near future. Some stores have already ceased to operate. Five years ago it had 500 stores, but 98 now. The Nottingham-based company with 427 staff is believed to loss-making and is under pressure from the FCA.
  • Bathstore, the bathroom specialist with 168 stores and almost 700 staff, appointed administrators, having failed to find a new buyer. The company was started in 1990, bought by Wolseley in 2003, sold to Endless in 2012 and sold again in 2014 to Warren Stephens. Its most-recent figures show a pre-tax loss of £22m on sales of £141m. The company and some of its stores was finally bought by Homebase.
  • The Yorkshire Linen Company, the home furnishings group with stores in Harrogate, Leeds, Huddersfield and Hull, went into administration in mid-June and ceased trading. The firms used a CVA in February 2019 for its 19 stores.
  • Realbuzz. Realbuzz is a specialist sportswear retailer focused on supporting runners with kit, advice and nutrition. In 2017 they announced Realbuzz would grow from six stores to 36, but in the second quarter of 2019 many shops were vacated and administrator notices placed there. Other parts of the group are unaffected as far as is known.
  • Rococo Chocolates, a manufacturer and retailer of high-end chocolates, with five stores in London, went into administration (May 2019), although the company continues to trade.
  • Skandium, the Swedish design-led retailer in Marylebone High Street and South Kensington went into administration in April 2019.
  • Debenhams, one of the largest and best-known department stores on the high street, went into pre-pack administration on 9 April 2019, with 165 department stores, more than 25,000 employees and thousands of concession staff. The company has experienced many changes in ownership in recent years (it was part of the Burton Group at one time) and is now controlled by its funders and creditors. A contested CVA was agreed in May 2019, involving the closure of 50 stores in total (starting with 22 in 2020) and rent reductions.
  • Select, a ‘value’ fashion retailer primarily serving the youth and younger female markets, went into administration. Select has around 2,000 employees and 180 stores, plus online sales in the UK and Western Europe. Its attempts since 2014 to migrate away from the ‘value’ end of fashion have come at a time when price has become of key importance to the sector. Select went through a CVA in 2018
  • Pretty Green, the fashion retailer owned by Liam Gallagher, went into administration in March. It had 12 outlets plus House-of-Fraser concessions. Pretty Green was unable to recover from the loss of £500,000 from the failure of the House of Fraser. 
  • The Bottle Shop, one of the major distributors and retailers of craft beer, went into administration in March. There are 12 full-time and 16 part-time staff, a large warehouse and several retail units. It raised a lot of money from by crowdfunding in 2017, but recently lost important contracts.
  • Office Outlet, the office supplies and stationery chain previously called Staples, went into administration in March with 94 stores and 1,170 employees. As Staples, it had gone through administration in 2015 after the CMA prevented it merging with Office Depot. Office Outlet shifted focus from the high street to becoming primarily a stationery and office products supermarket.
  • Superfi, a small chain of audio-visual retail stores, originally started in Nottingham in 1929 as ‘Eunice Radio’, went into administration in late February. Some stores reopened in May 2019.
  • Better Bathrooms, a distributor of bathroom suites, showers, fittings and accessories, went into administration and ceased trading at the beginning of March. It had 15 outlets. Its 2017 sales were £60m. All except ten of its 335 employees have been made redundant. Sales in y/e 2017 were £60mn.
  • L K Bennett, the upmarket fashion retailer, filed a notice of intended administration at the beginning of March. It has 41 outlets in the UK with 480 UK staff. There are also 52 stores abroad in the U.S., Russia and China.
  • Bennetts Department Store, Derby, originally opened in 1734, went into administration in 2019, although the Derby store has been saved. The Ashbourne (Derbyshire) store closed.
  • Hourstons, a Scottish department store based in Ayr, was closed on 7 February 2019 and iy went into liquidation. There were 81 job losses. The store was first opened in 1896.
  • tReds, a footwear chain with 21 stores and 165 employees, went into administration in January 2019.
  • Wine Direct and associate company JustInCases, both online wine suppliers, have suspended trade following the administration of their owner, Fermentation Ltd.
  • News from Germany: Kaufhof, a major upmarket department-store group is to cut 2,600 jobs.
  • Gerry Weber: International Ag (which operates 1,200 stores in 60 countries) is to go into administration. In the UK Gerry Weber has 19 branded, franchise or outlet stores and 217 stockists. The German subsidiary of Monsoon Accessorize is applying to go into administration under German insolvency law, affecting jobs in 30 stores there.
  • OddBins and Wine Cellars, the off-licence group with 100 stores (part of Walsall-based European Food Brokers, went into administration in January 2019. The wholesale division and 500 retail jobs are affected.
  • Patisserie Valerie, a much-loved chain of French-themed cafés, went into administration in January. Seventy-one loss-making stores and all department-store concessions in were closed immediately (900 staff losses). The remaining 122 stores continue to trade, although another tranche was closed two months later. There are 3,000 employees. This successful group had been worth £450mn, before evidence of large-scale fraud (up to £40m) and unauthorised loans of £9.1mn were discovered. A share issue of raised £15m plus £20m from the Company’s founder were insufficient to save the business.
  • Miss Shoes, a Norfolk-based online shoe retailer that started in 2007 went into administration in mid-January along with its associate company Fuel Your Fashion Online. The reasons given for company failure: prices, intense competition and high returns. There were 20 staff.
  • Chapelle Jewellery & Watches, founded in 1979, trading from 21 stores in retail parks and malls, its ecommerce arm, and two concessions, went into administration in January. There were 250 employees. Chapelle was owned by Hilco the turnround specialist.
  • Wild and Gorgeous, a childrenswear wholesaler and retailer with two outlets, and 15 UK stockists, 18 US stockists, and others in France, Germany and Italy went into administration in mid-January.
  • Hardy Amies, couturier and once the Queen’s dressmaker, went into administration for a second time at the beginning of 2019. There is an online store and a physical outlet in London.
  • Steamer Trading, the kitchen and accessories stores, went into administration early in January. Twenty-seven of its 38 stores were bought by Pro Cook, one by Divertimenti and ten will close, making about 120 people redundant. By mid-2019 half of the stores had been closed.

What’s Included and Excluded?

We have published these lists of medium and large UK retailers that have gone bust (ie entered ‘administration’ to seek protection from creditors or gone into liquidation) for more than 17 years.

Business failure can often be a temporary inconvenience. We are not suggesting that the businesses listed here no longer survive, but they have gone through the legal process of insolvency known as administration. This listing is based on research carried out at the time based on our understanding of their business affairs. More recent information may well change some of the assumptions or conclusions. Some of these firms entered administration and then were closed down. Others have had a second life as ecommerce-only businesses with no or few physical stores. Most of the large firms came out of administration and are still trading. Some have been sold, but changed their name. Others exist as departments or concessions in larger stores. The presence of any business in this listing must not be taken to imply that it no longer exists, its name is no longer used or that such business, if still trading, is impaired in anyway.  

  • The references are only to the retail sector. We exclude restaurants, fast food, car dealers, bookmakers and other service industries from this list, although we may add an occasional note about a non-retail business if it is significant or amusing.
  • This page deals with UK retail only, although comments may be made about activities in other countries from time to time.
  • A ‘medium-sized’ retailer typically has five or more stores or more than 80 staff, though we will include smaller retailers of local/regional significant. A large retailer has 20 or more stores.
  • Our summary of the major failures since 2008 (the year of the great recession) is attached to this webpage
  • Who’s Gone Bust? lists only firms that have gone into administration. We do not list takeovers, cutbacks, or store closures here unless they involve going into administration.
  • A 'Company Voluntary Arrangement' (or CVA) is a formal insolvency process enabling a company to agree with its creditors a strategy for repaying part of its debts, lessening the burden of high rents and other charges or closing stores that become mandatory for all unsecured creditors if agreed by 75% of creditors by value. The process has been controversial, but can protect the Company from a winding-up petition and give it a fair chance of survival, while the alternative may be administration. It is a legal process. Further information can be obtained from the KSA Group (see https://www.companyrescue.co.uk/guides-knowledge/what-is/what-is-a-cva-or-company-voluntary-arrangement/).  
  • As well as Who's Gone Bust? we publish the full picture of retail store closures and employee redundancies resulting from all types of company reorganisation, rationalisation, takeovers, Company Voluntary Arrangements (CVAs) and closures caused by company administration on a separate webpage here – The Crisis in Retailing: Closures and Job Losses

Previous Years’ Archive Pre-2019

This listing relates to business failures occurring in 2019. We keep a record of previous years and these can be downloaded as PDFs as follows (These documents open in a new window)

Previous Years’ Archive Pre-2019

This listing relates to business failures occurring in 2019. We keep a record of previous years and these can be downloaded as PDFs as follows (These documents open in a new window)


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