Who’s Gone Bust in Retail?

Who’s Gone Bust in UK Retailing in 2019-2020?


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Review 2007-2020

 

Companies failing

Stores Affected

Employees Affected

2020 (to June) 40 2,630 55,976

2019 (12 months)

43

2,051

46,506

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 2020 by Company 

  • More bricks-and-mortar retailers have gone into administration this year (by June 2020), putting more stores at risk and more employees under threat of losing their jobs than in the whole of 2019, which was described some some observers as 'the worst year for 25 years' for the industry . 

  • Please Note also: the figures given above for every year, including 2020, refer ONLY to UK failures and ONLY to UK retail businesses - so not to American or Australian corporations, not to restaurants, cafes and food services, not to U.S. department stores and so on. News of these other businesses is included here purely for interest: they are NOT added in. The yearly totals in the Table above are intended to show the main trends applying to UK retailing, from relatively benign years where few companies go bust to perfectly horrid years like this one.     

  • Norville Group, a Gloucestershire-based firm of opticians and optical suppliers to the industry, went into administration early in June after selling its nine Norville Opticians' practices the previous week. The firm's laboratories in Gloucester, Seaham, Bolton and Livingstone have been closed and 134 staff made redundant. The company failed to obtain financial support from anywhere, and, with nil revenue, had to close down. It was renowned for being able to produce lens to the very highest standard.
  • Benson Beds, the beds and bedding business owned by Alteri, was put into pre-pack administration at the same time as Harveys (see below). Alteri bought the business out immediately and put £25m into the company to invest in its development. There are 242 stores and 1,900 staff. Bensons (at present) is seen as a much better business than Harveys, most UK bedding is made in the UK, it faces less competition from overseas operators and Alteri is likely to focus on improving its operations, while keeping Harveys Furniture stable. The company continues to trade and existing orders will be fulfilled. 
  • Harveys Furniture, the second largest furniture retailer in the UK, was put into administration by its owners, Alteri Investors on the last day of June. There are 105 stores, which have been struggling for some years, and 1,575 staff. The company is looking to close 20 stores and make 240 staff redundant. The company continues to trade and existing orders will be satisfied. 
  • T M Lewin, retailer of shirts and ties online and in 65 stores, went into administration on the last day of June after failing to find a buyer. The shops have not re-opened following the relaxation of the lockdown. The busines had been acquired from Bain private equity only last month (May). The new owners, SCP Private Equity, expect to close all the stores, making the company online only. Six hundred employees are likely to lose their jobs.
  • Bertram Books, the Norwich-based book wholesaler, went into  administration towards the end of June 2020. Most of its 450 workforce has been made redundant. Bertrams was particularly important to smaller publishing companies. Changes in the book market in the last 20 years including the growth of online sales and dramatic price cutting,  highly-promoted 'blockbusters', the growth of Amazon and direct-to-customer applications as well as e-books adversely affected Bertram Books' business model. But that is not all. Sub-optimal decision-making by a succession of uncommitted owners have brought it down. Bertrams started in 1968 in a chicken shed in Elsie Bertram's garden as a project for her and her son. By 1999, when it was first sold, Mrs Bertram was 86, Bertrams was the second-largest book wholesaler in the UK,  and it employed 700 people. In 2007, it was bought by the Woolworths Group and went into administration with the rest of the Company before being bought by Smiths News, the magazine/newspaper distributor of W H Smith. In 2018 it was bought by Aurelius, a German private equity group, who later sold Wordery, Bertram's online operation, to the Waterstone's book chain and Bertram's library division to an Italian business. The coronavirus pandemic, closing both libraries and bookshops, proved to be the final blow for Bertram Books. Was all this inevitable? Probably not.
  • Intu Properties, the  major property company that owns and manages some of the largest and best UK retail malls, went into administration on 26 June 2020. Many of its retail clients are not paying their rents and INTU's creditors are not as forebearing. It has total debts of £4.5bn, a merger with a European propery company came to nothing and it has failed to raise more capital. Its recent negotations with other parties, where it hoped to arrange a 'standstill agreement' with its lenders, led to no useful outcome, so it went into administration. Major sites include Lakeside, Glasgow's Braehead, Manchester's Trafford Centre, Nottingham's Victoria Centre and Norwich's Chapelfield. This administration will be a major blow to the UK retail sector, although, coming after many other impossible-to-believe 'major blows', its significance may be less apparent. It may not be possible for the Admiinistrators to run all the shopping centres without outside funding, although so far all sites have been kept open. It is still possible that many of their shopping centres will close unless a new potential buyer acquires some or all of them. Some observers who have used the lockdown to re-think their personal philosophy may rejoice at the decline of this bastion of consumerism. But the destruction of asset wealth in terms of commercial property, will adversely affect property prices, the stability of most retailers, pension funds, shares, unit trusts, tax revenue, job opportunities etc etc and bring home to the public the enormity of the slump we have managed to stumble into. 
  • Go Outdoors, the outdoor sports, walking, climbing, camping, riding and exercise retailer owned by JD Sports, wwnt into administration towards the end of June. It was immediately bought out of administration by J D Sports for £56.5m (pre-pack administration), enabling hte company to be reorganised.  J D Sports has stated that it wishes needs to re-think the Go Outdoors business but does not expect large-scale redundancies and closures. There are 2,400 employees and 67 stores. Since the firm was bought by JD Sports it has lost £291m (to August 2019) and the massive losses caused by the coronavirus lockdown have only worsened the situation. 
  • Lee Longlands, the Birmingham-based upmarket furniture retailer, went into administration towards the end of June to enable the company to restructure and improve cash flow. The company continues to trade and outstanding orders will be met. There are six stores, mostly in the Midlands. Lee Longlands was purchased via a management buy-out in 2015. The company started in Broad Street Bham as an antiques business in 1902.
  • Poundstretcher Properties, a company connected to discount-chain Poundstretcher, is to be placed into administration as part of a CVA programme by 450-store group Poundstretcher to reorganise its store portolio, cut rents and reduce other costs. The Poundstretcher Group has argued that around 250 stores will close if the CVA is not approved by its creditors. Poundstrecher Properties holds the leases on only 23 stores  and this will not affect the legal position or ownership of the group as a whole. Poundstretcher faces the same issues as the rest of the high street, compounded by the lockdown, now in its 85th day (it is really that long?).
  • Oak Furnitureland, the specialist furniture store that started off on eBay, has gone into administration, and was immediately bought out of administration (pre-pack) by hedge-fund Davidson Kempner Capital Management. There are 105 showrooms and 1,491 empoyees. The business continues still to trade, but the new owner expects to rationalise the business, probably through the closure of some stores and reductions in staff. 
  • French-themed retailer, bread/coffee/restaurant chain Le Pain Quotidien went into pre-pack administration in mid-June. It has been bought out of administration by a new vehicle, BrunchCo21, believed to be linked to its former owner, Cobepa. Ten of its 26 outlets have been closed with the loss of around 200 jobs in stores and the closure of its head office. The new owners expect to negotiate T&C with the landlords of the remaining 16 properties, and the results may lead of course to further closures. 
  • Monsoon Accessorize, the womenswear and accessories chain with 181 stores, went into administration early in June. It is a private company owned by its founder, Peter Simon: it started as a market stall. Monsoon Accessorize was immediately bought out of administration by Peter Simon. Thirty-five stores are to be closed with 545 employees being made redundant. The business had 181 stores and 2,534 UK staff before administration. It is understood that Monsoon does not expect that every landlord will agree to the new conditions, but hopes to save around 100 stores and 2,300 jobs. The stores are based on careful, edited retailing which only encountered problems in the last decade. In 2019 the company survived a previous crisis through a large cash injection from its owner, the closure of 40 stores and a CVA that cut rents on three-quarters of its stores. The group's survival after the current crisis will also depend upon how readily shoppers will return to physical stores post-coronavirus and by how much their tastes and buyer behaviour will have changed in this new environment. Monsoon's international business is unaffected, with 49 stores and 966 staff outside the UK. 
  • Quiz, the Glasgow-based fashion group, put its physical stores division into administration in early June. Ninety-three head-office and warehouse redundancies have already been declared. The business wants to renegotiate rents for its 82 stores and the eventual size of the group will only be known, when this has been done. KPMG has been appointed to review the firm's options, which are likely to include store closures.  There are 915 staff in the stores division. Quiz's online business continues unaffected, as are its 300+ concessions. 
  • Victoria's Secret, the UK arm of the U.S.-owned global retailer, went into administration early in June  2020. The UK fashion trade has experienced a torrid three years and the coronavirus lockdown, which prevented 'non-essential' stores trading (though not online), has been the final hammer blow. Victoria's Secret has probably lost its original appeal: the aftermath of the Me-too campaign may have made the chain seem slightly tacky. There are 25 stores and 800 staff. The company sells ladies' underwear. The company is reported as looking for a light-touch administration, allowing them to restructure the business, reduce costs and possibly find a new owner.
  • Aldo, a Canadian-based international chain of stores, went into administration early in May. This has led to the UK arm going into administration at the end of May. Five UK stores have been permanently closed, leaving eight surviving while the administrators seek new owners for the UK business. The UK network is obviously up for sale, but many of the stores are franchised and are not 'owned' by Aldo Canada. Aldo shoes, handbags and accessories are still available for purchase in the UK both online and in its 28 UK concessions (including Selfridges, Debenhams and House of Fraser).  The Irish arm of Aldo has already gone into administration. The company and its brands (chiefly 'Aldo' and 'Call It Spring')  are major international businesses, operating around 3,000 stores globally served by 20,000 staff. Apart from the UK, Aldo businesses are expected to reopen as each government permits in the post-coronavirus world. The main reason the company gives for its problems is: the world-wide closures of its stores caused by governments' attempts to limit the spread of coronavirus.  
  • DVF Studio, the luxury fashion company owned by Diane von Furstenberg, has gone into administration, citing 'coronavirus', and is closing its Mayfair store. The company has an online business as well as concessions in prestigious department stores, including Selfridges and Harvey Nichols. It announced earlier in 2020 that it was starting a subscription luxury service. The e-commerce business and concessions continue to trade.  
  • Antler, the luggage retailer which runs 18 stores and a concession, went into administration in mid-May. There are 194 employees, of which 164 staff have been made redundant.
  • Johnsons' Shoes, also trading as Bowleys Fine Shoes, went into administration in mid-May. There are 12 stores, all in the South East of England. The 145 furloughed staff will retain their jobs as the administrators seek to reopen the businesses as soon as this is permitted by Government regulations.
  • Dawson's Music, one of the oldest stores selling musical instruments (est. 1898), went into administration early in May. There are six stores in Leeds, Manchester, Chester, Liverpool, Reading and Belfast. It is still opan and is hoping to be sold as a going concern. There are 75 staff. The coronavirus lockdown proved to be the last straw for a retail group that was already facing a decline in sales. There is also an Educational Division which supplies schools, colleges and universities. In late May, the chain was purchased by Andrew and Karen Oliver, who took over all the stores and retained the staff.
  • J Crew, the U.S. fashion retailer with six UK stores, sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection at the beginning of May. It has 500 stores in the U.S., trades online, and owns the J Crew Factory and Madewell brands. It intends to continue trading online while it gives control of the business to its lenders who will cancel debts of $1.65bn (£1.3bn). It is unclear how this will affect its UK business.
  • L K Bennet, the fashion retailer which went into administration in March 2019, is to extend its administration for another twelve months. The company expects to open seven stores on 15 June 2020 (when non-essential stores are allowed to start trading) with the remaining 10 stores to open at a later date. 
  • Oasis and Warehouse, two fashion retailers owned by Icelandic-Bank Kaupthing, went into administration in mid-April 2020, having failed to find a buyer for the group.  All its 92 stores were closed, 2,300 staff made redundant and the 437 concessions terminated. The 13 stores and 29 concessions in the Irish Republic had already gone in into administration under Irish law: there were 248 staff in Ireland.  The Oasis and Warehouse brands and e-commerce operations were bought by Hilco, which sold them in June to BooHoo, the successful e-commerce apparel business. BooHoo raised £200m in May to help it take advantage of 'opportuunities', and now also owns brands such as NastyGal, PrettyLittleThing, Karen Millen, MissPap and Coast. Concessions and stores in other countries will continue to trade. Oasis and Warehouse had been suffering recently from the problems common to most UK mid-range fashion businesses. The coronavirus lockdown - closing all its stores - made it impossible to continue operating and ended any chance of a sale to a business wanting the stores to continue.  
  • Debenhams, the UK department store group now owned by its lenders following administration in 2019, has appointed administrators once again to protect itself from its creditors. Creditors were considering using winding-up orders to get paid. Although the company has closed 22 stores this year and expected to close 28 in 2021, the new administration is likely to hasten the demise of many more of its outlets in the longer term. Although its online operations are supplying customers, all its stores are in lockdown. It has heavy debts of around £600m. The comapny is loss-making and without the sales revenue from its exisitng stores it is in deep trouble. Debenhams has closed its Irish division permanently, which has eleven stores, 958 staff and 300 concessions. Debs is also closing its Hong Kong and Bangladeshi subsidiaries. 
  • Spicers, the office-supplies wholesaler, employing 1,200 people started by John Spicer in 1796 ceased trading in April. It was originally part of the Spicer paper and stationery company and split in 1985. It built up a European presence, but the UK arm and the European operations were separated in 2011, Spicers being bought by Better Capital, the private equity firm controlled by John Moulton. When it went into administration its administrators were not able to sell it and the business was liquidated.  
  • Simply Scuba, an award-winning diving retailer based in Faversham, went into administration in June. Thirty-two jobs are at risk. SimplyScuba has won the Dive Retailer of the Year award for ten years in succession. The Simply Group also runs SimplyHike and SimplySwim. The Simply Scuba website continues to trade, with its new 500M Divers Watch on sale today for £109.

  • Kath Kidston, the vintage-inspired fashion and accessories chain, appointed administrators early in April 2020. It has now announced that it will close its UK branches, concentrating on Asia, the wholesale business and online sales. The company - like many fashion retailers - has had problems in maintaining sales and profitability. Since 2018 it lost £27mn, resulting in its closing stores and cutting head-office staff. There are 200 stores globally.  All 60 UK sites are to close, with only 32 of its 941 UK staff being retained. It will now operate in the UK as an online-only retailer. The company's owners, Barings Private Equity Asia, have bought it out of administration on a pre-pack basis, having previously tried to sell it. Finances were so poor towards the end that initially Kath Kidson announced that they would only be paying part of the wages owed to employees: they have now agreed to make payments in full, but a up to a week late. The company suppliers, including HMRC and clothing manufacturers, are owned £90m by the failed company. 
  • Autonomy Clothing, a small fashion chain with three stores, 100 concessions and 44 staff, went into administration towards the end of March 2020. It has been beset by the same problems as the rets of the industry, the lockdown being the last straw. All employees have been made redundant. 
  • Lombok, the aspirational furniture and furnishings business, went into administration at the end of March. It operates both online and offline and is best known for its teak products made mostly from reclaimed timber. It has experienced two pre-pack administrations before (2009 and 2011). All 43 staff have been made redundant.
  • Brighthouse, the rent-to-own household goods retailer, appointed administrators at the end of March 2020. There are 240 stores and 2,700 employees. The administration does not affect customers that rent goods, as their obligations will transfer first to the administrators and then to any new owner. This controversial business mainly deals with low-income households and was fined by the financial regulator for mis-selling and 'unfair' interest charged as part of consumer transactions. The compensation it must pay to 250,000 customers is understood to cost £1m per month and its most-recent financial report (February 2020) showed showed corporate losses of £16m. The company was originally called Radio Rentals whose business was renting out first radios and later TV equipment: they guaranteed to keep rented electronic goods in good repair at a time when electrical goods would often break down. 
  • Laura Ashley, the fashion retailer with 155 stores, went into administration in mid-March 2020. The administrators permanently closed 70 of the company's outlets: 1,669 staff were furloughed and 677 staff continued working in the business with more redundancies announced in mid-June. Only 18 of its remaining stores have re-opened post lockdown, though this may not be ominous. Gordon Bros have been allowed to purchse the Laura Ashley brand and its archives, leaving the future of the stores, logistics and manufacturing in Britain and Ireland unresolved.  The Pension Protection Fund is asking for another administrator to be appointed to ensure the protection of Laura Ashley shareholders. Laura Ashley has had problems for more than 20 years. Administration comes after a long period of poor results from a retailer that had been a star in the 80s and early 90s. The post-2016 deterioration in fashion sales affecting most clothing retailers was certainly a factor, but the failure of the business to match modern consumer requirements meant it was difficult to see the purpose of the company. Latterly it had more success with its furnishing and homeware than fashion. The conoravirus epidemic early in 2020 led to a sudden drop in footfall and store sales, which finally prompted the company's move into administration. Gordon Brothers. a US-based restructuring corporation, bought Laura Ashley out of administration in late April.
  • Kikki.K, an Australian-based retail group selling Swedish-designed stationery, has gone into voluntary administration as a result of the problems of Australian retailing plus the cost of its global expansion (now including Hong Kong, the UK, Singapore and New Zealand). There are up to five stores in the UK, three shops-within-shops in stores like Fortnum & Mason and Selfridges and an online business which, in Europe, seems now to be switched through to Australia. There are 100 stores globally. The Australian stores remain open, but the UK online business is currently uncontactable due to 'unprecedented shipping delays'. 
  • Some Good News. Homebase, the DIY chain, has returned to profit after its experiences first as Bunnings UK and then a large CVA case. It used its CVA to cut rents and close more than 70 stores. It is therefore quitting its CVA eighteen months early. CVAs have had mixed results when used by retailers, but this is one that seems to have turned up trumps for the business.
  • Soak, a major online bathroom products retailer, went into adminstration at the end of February. The market is intensely competitive and Soak's revenue fell from £70m (2018) to £43m (2019). Its profit on the 2018 figures was only £2.9m. Price competition between online and bricks-and-mortar retailers has meant that few operators are making much of a profit, hence the decline of Soak and the collapse of other kitchen and bathroom retailers, such as Better Bathrooms. There are 220 employees.
  • Bonmarché, the value-oriented clothing retailer that went into administration in October 2019, has now been purchased by Edinburgh Woollen Mills (its previous owner). It is being placed in the same operating division as Peacocks. So far only 200 stores have been acquired, leaving 70 stores in administration. A number of Bonmarché stores have 'closing-down' notices in their front windows and these are expected to disappear. When further information about Bonmarché is available, it will be shared here.  
  • T J Hughes Outlet Division has issued  a notice of intended administration  for its Outlet Division, prior to renegotiating their rents. Lewis's Home Retail Limited, a subsidiary of LHR Holdings (the master company for T J Hughes), owns eight stores, two of which have already been saved via agreed rent reductions. This does not affect the whole Group, but only outlet stores. More information as it becomes available.   
  • HonestJohn.co.uk, the online advice website for car owners, went into adminstration and has been bought by Heycar, an online retailer of used cars. The staff, IP and assets have been transferred.
  • Ashbury Furniture, a large furniture and soft furnishings salesroom, went into administration in February, caused by constant road engineering on the M20 (making it hard to get to the showroom) and the impact of rent and rates.
  • Ena Shaw, a producer and retailer of soft furnishings based in St Helens, went into administration in February 2020, closing its factory and store. There were 167 employees.
  • Oddbins, the wine and drinks off-licence business of European Food Brokers, went into administration at the beginning of February. There are 56 stores, mostly trading as Oddbins or Wine Cellars: two have now closed. Employees number around 567. Less than one year ago 45 EFB off-licence businesses were sold or closed  on the basis that they were no longer viable.  
  • Hearing and Mobility, a spcialist national chain of hearing and mobility stores, has ceased trading and administrators have been appointed. Hearing and Mobility (HHML) is a Northampton-based company founded in 2002 with 18,000 customers. It established a chain of 27 hearing and mobility stores throughout Britain, later focusing mainly on the Midlands and the South with 15 stores. Starting in 2016, the company closed many of its mobility stores to concentrate on hearing disabilities. The company rarely made a profit and by January 2020 had only four stores. After its stores had 'temporarily' ceased trading they were sold to two other companies trading in this vertical market. Amplify Hearing has acquired HHML hearing operations, assets and 76 staff, enabling customers to continue being provided with service. 
  • Hawkins Bazaar, a Norwich-based toy/games retailer with a focus on adult merchandise, went into administration in the latter days of January. There are 20 stores and 177 staff. The company went into administration previously in 2011. Weak trading in 2019 and a poor Christmas have led the firm's current problems. The stores will remain open while a buyer is found, but by mid-February were all to close.
  • Houseology, a Glasgow-based ecommerce furniture business, has gone into administration after a doleful Christmas. Twenty-three staff have been made redundant. Bureau, its office-oriented associate business, contiues to trade and is not affected by Houseology's failure. Houseology was set up in 2010 and is perhaps best-known for being backed by famous names such as Terry Leahy, Mike Welch and Bill Dobbie. By the end of February Houseology's assets including IP had been acquired by competitor Olivia, part of the Moot Group. Moot Group started in 2018 and is targeting turnover of £20m by end-2020.
  • Beales, a 22-store department store chain, went into into administration, having failed to find a new owner or additional finance in the latter end of 2019. At first, the company's stores remained open in the hope that a new owner could be found. They have all now closed. The loss-making stores in the Midlands and the South were closed suddenly when no new owner cold be found, and were followed a fortnight later by the remaining stores, which were mostly in East Anglia. The company had announced in December 2019 that it was in difficulties and needed refinancing. Beales was originally set up in 1881 in Bournemouth as the Fancy Fair and Oriental House, taking advantage of the then-current craze for Chinese-themed merchandise. Originally a strong independent department store, Beales had been buying other department stores for 25 years in order to gain scale. It bought Bentalls in 2002 and in the last eleven years has grown by acquisition through taking over small groups of ex-Co-op and small independent department stores, which were not in great shape when they were acquired. These stores were generally in smaller towns like Bedford, Keighley, Mansfield, Peterborough, Skegness, Yeovil, Spalding, Diss, Beccles and Wisbech . Losses rose from -£1.3m in 2018 to -£3.1m in 2019 and poor trading over Christmas made it essential to secure new funding. Beales employed more than 1,200 staff. Colliers International reported in January 2020 that Beales was paying £2.85m in business rates, £1m more than should have been the case.

 

Who’s Gone Bust in 2019 by Company 

  • Joy, a fashion retailer, announced on 30 December 2019 that it intended to appoint administrators. The group was founded by Joy Maureen Chadha, who purchased 12 of its stores after it first went into administration in 2008. The group collapsed again in 2017, and was bought out of administration by Mrs Chadha. There are ten stores and concessions and 182 employees.
  • The Book People, an online and direct-sales book distributor, went into administration on 18 December 2019. Three-quarters of sales are online and one-quarter direct selling using agents in schools, mobile stores, pop-ups and company workplaces. There are 393 staff, including 230 at their warehouse in Bangor. The company was owned by Endless and will attempt to fulfil every order currently placed and accepted. Sales in 2017 were £71.5m, but 2017 profits fell to £1.1m from £6m in 2016. Debts were £33m. It sells more than 17m children's books annually. As a simple example of the knock-on effects of corporate insolvency, The Book People's partnership with the independent Norwich-based publisher, Galley Beggar, in jointly producing a special edition of Booker-prize winning Ellmann's Ducks, Newburyport, meant their £40K invoice would never be paid. This led Galley Beggar needing to raise additional funds using by crowdfunding. They had raised what they needed, however, by the next day.
  • A management buyout of the Regis UK and Supercuts hairdressing businesses that went into administration in October kept 140 salons (1,000 jobs), but 60 salons are to close. Another 40 salons had closed before the buyout was announced. 
  • Swoon, eCommerce furniture retailer, having gone through a pre-pack administration after trading problems, is now back in the hands of its co-founders, Brian Harrison and Debbie Williamson. The staff are to be given a stake in the new business. Major investors in what, until early-mid 2019, was regarded as a very significant, design-led provider, such as Octopus Ventures, Index Ventures and Zoopla founder Alex Chesterman have lost their equity.  
  • Jessops, the camera retailer saved from liquidation by Peter Jones in 2012, was put through pre-pack administration in early December 2019. Administration relates to Jessops’ property company which holds the occupancy agreements for the retail trading arm. The company had been trying to renegotiate rents and close weak stores for some months, hit by poor consumer demand and high rates, rents and operating costs. Sales to April 2018 rose by 20% more than 2017, so Jessops had been able to cope with poor trading conditions.  However 2019 has been a crisis year for many retailers. Jessops had a period in November when it was ‘examining all its options’ but went into administration to give the company greater leeway over its occupancy costs. It is anticipated that further stores will be shut.   
  • Clintons, the struggling greeting-cards business with 332 stores and 2,500 staff, went through a pre-pack administration early in December 2019 that ‘saved’ the business but wiped out many suppliers of goods and services to the chain. Since 2012, Clintons has been owned by American Greetings, a dominant U.S. card company. Clintons had attempted to use a CVA to cut rents and close 66 stores, but could not get approval from its landlords to do this. The pre-pack administration was Clintons’ strategic response. Administration also means the cancellation of existing rental agreements, enabling the company to agree lower rents or close stores where landlords refuse to comply.  
  • Mamas 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.    
  • Hourstons (formerly Arnotts), a major independent department store in central Ayr, collapsed in 2019 and its site is currently empty. It has been designated to become a new leisure complex along with the site of the former Arran Mall in 2023.
  • 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. The administrators closed ten leasehold stores immediately:229 employees were made redundant out of a total of 306 staff. The Sauchiehall Street flagship remains open to sell off stock, but will close in mid-December. 
  • 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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