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116-year-old firm hits the rocks

Fashion chain Austin Reed is latest retailer to collapse

Austin ReedFashion chain Austin Reed is the latest retailer to call in administrators, adding to the growing crisis for Britain’s high streets.

Alix Partners was appointed today and said it will continue to trade the group “while exploring all possible options for its future including a sale of all or parts of the business.”

The move puts a further 1,184 jobs in danger, adding to up to 11,000 at Bhs which collapsed into administration yesterday.

Austin Reed, a 116-year-old chain, has about 100 standalone stores and 50 concessions and has recently closed shops in Scotland, including Perth (above).

Peter Saville, one of the administrators, said: “Austin Reed is a well-regarded and iconic brand. We are confident that it is an attractive proposition for a range of potential buyers.”

Austin Reed was bought only last week for an undisclosed sum by Alteri Investors which loaned the company £6m last year.

Analysts say Austin Reed suffers from similar problems as Bhs by having tired stores, a dated product range and weak online operations.

David Lonsdale at CallyDavid Lonsdale (right), director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said the crisis among big retailers should be a warning to politicians about imposing higher costs.

“The rate of change within retail is quickening as the digital revolution reshapes the industry, the cost of labour and shop premises goes up, and while the cost of technology goes down,” he said.

“These effects could mean there are as many as 900,000 fewer jobs in UK retail by 2025.

“Government-imposed tax and regulatory costs have mushroomed and are accelerating the pace of change affecting retail.

“It reinforces the need for a far more coherent approach to policy making, where business and government as a whole in Scotland work together to deliver a joint retail industry strategy which nurtures the sector and helps it fulfil its potential over the decade ahead. This would benefit jobs, retail and its supply chain and the other sectors it touches.”

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