Counting the cost of high street collapses

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The news that 100 Austin Reed stores are to close with the loss of around 1,000 jobs is just the latest in a line of catastrophic collapses on Britain’s high streets this year.

While Edinburgh Woolen Mill has taken on the brand name and stock of the clothing chain, it refused to take on the stores around the country, meaning they will all close by the end of June.

The 116-year-old fashion chain is that latest in a line of big British names which have found themselves in trouble since the start of 2016. Among the others are:

BHS

Placed into administration just a few days before Austin Reed, BHS’s misfortune has caused controversy over the effects of its purchase and subsequent sale by Sir Philip Green. The department chain’s collapse was the biggest in the UK since Woolworths went bust in 2008. Around 11,000 staff in 164 store face an uncertain future as efforts to save the profitable elements of the business continue.

Beales

Another department store chain, Beales blamed high rents for sinking into insolvency. It has now agreed a company voluntary arrangement to try to keep it afloat and has managed to negotiate reduced rents on 14 of its 30 stores and monthly rather than quarterly payments. Most of its stores operate at a profit and the 30 per cent rent reduction could help keep the business going.

Ben Sherman

Not the fashion label, rather the the menswear retailer bearing the same name. It was sold in January to clothing supplier BMB Clothing after going into administration. It has a total of 250 staff, with ten stores in the UK, plus concessions in ten House of Fraser stores and ten overseas. Three of its stores are to close immediately and its head office is likely to follow suit.

Brantano

The discount shoe store went into administration in January. With around 2,000 staff in its 240 branches and 60 concessions, the collapse of the chain could have a major impact. Its misfortune has been blamed on changes to how people shop and under-investment. Despite being in administration, the stores continue to operate while the search for a buyer continues.

Blue Inc

Trading under Blue Inc and The Officers Club brand the retailer focuses on young fashion. It has appointed administrators to help close its loss-making stores while allowing its profitable outlets to continue trading. This is expected to involve the closure of between 60 and 65 of its stores with the loss of around 500 jobs.

Furniture Barn

Midlands-based family operated chain of furniture and bedding stores and warehouses. It went into administration at the start of the year. Around 60 jobs were lost as the chain closed three warehouses - in Doncaster, Thurrock and West Bromwich - and two stores - Sutton Coldfield and Thurrock. The company is continuing to operate from its other stores under a six-month licence from the administrators.

Austins of Derry

One of the world’s oldest department stores, Austin’s of Derry was put in liquidation in March after two years of trying to save the business. It was bought in 2014 by a hotel chain in a bid to keep it going but went into receivership, although it continued trading for some time. The store’s closure resulted in the loss of 53 jobs.

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