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Shops at risk

Edinburgh Woollen Mill on brink of collapse

Edinburgh Woollen Mill

Edinburgh Woollen in Pitlochry (pic: Terry Murden)

High street clothing chain Edinburgh Woollen Mill, which owns Peacocks, Jaeger and Jane Norman, is close to appointing administrators in an attempt to save the business and 24,000 jobs. 

Staff were told today that the national and local lockdowns had hit sales heavily. It operates through 1,100 stores and has a portfolio of brands, including Bonmarché which is not part of the filing.

A collapse of the company, which opened its first shop in Edinburgh in 1970, would be Britain’s largest business casualty to date.

It is heavily reliant on tourists and has seen sales hit hard during the pandemic.

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Daily Business reported lat month that it was weighing up the sale of some of its brands after it was approached by several interested buyers.

Billionaire owner Philip Day has engaged insolvency specialists at FRP to carry out an urgent review ahead of further action.

All stores will continue trading and further details will be announced in due course, the company added, but significant changes are expected.

EWM chief executive Steve Simpson said: “Like every retailer, we have found the past seven months extremely difficult.

“This situation has grown worse in recent weeks as we have had to deal with a series of false rumours about our payments and trading which have impacted our credit insurance.

“Traditionally, EWM has always traded with strong cash reserves and a conservative balance sheet, but these stories, the reduction in credit insurance, against the backdrop of the lockdown and now this second wave of Covid-19, and all the local lockdowns, have made normal trading impossible.

“As directors we have a duty to the business, our staff, our customers and our creditors to find the very best solution in this brutal environment.

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“So we have applied to court today for a short breathing space to assess our options before moving to appoint administrators.

“Through this process I hope and believe we will be able to secure the best future for our businesses, but there will inevitably be significant cuts and closures as we work our way through this.

“I would like to thank all our staff for their amazing efforts during this time and also our customers who have remained so loyal and committed to our brands.”

An FRP spokesman said: “Our team is working with the directors of a number of the Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group subsidiaries to explore all options for the future of its retail brands Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Jaeger, Ponden Home, and Peacocks.”

The move came just hours before Chancellor Rishi Sunak was expected to unveil new plans for protecting jobs and businesses hit by the second wave and new measure

The company, formerly based in the Scottish Borders and now run from Carlisle, has also acquired Jane Norman, Jacques Vert and its Calvetron Brands stablemates, Eastex and Windsmoor. It later bought men’s tailoring supplier Berwin & Berwin out of administration. Last year it acquired Bon Marche.

Edinburgh Woollen Mill was founded by Drew Stevenson in 1946 as the Langholm Dyeing and Finishing Company. Its first shop opened in Edinburgh in 1970.

Mr Day led a management buy-out in 2002 and subsequently embarked on a spree of acquisitions to build a retail empire across the UK.



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