Edinburgh Woollen Mill (EMW) and homewares retailer Ponden Home have entered administration, putting thousands of jobs at risk.
A total of 866 jobs were lost across the two brands after administrators at FRP confirmed late on Friday that 56 EWM shops and 8 Ponden Home stores were permanently closed.
EMW had 328 sites with 2,571 staff across the UK, while Ponden Home had 329 employees.
The chains were part of EMW Group’s stable of brands, which also include Jaeger and Peacocks. Talks about a potential sale of the latter two are still ongoing as those brands have not entered administration.
The news comes after EMW announced last month that it would go bust without filing for an intention to appoint administrators with the High Court, with 24,000 jobs in the balance.
The retailer — owned by high street tycoon Philip Day — has been granted a further two-week extension by the High Court to continue discussions with potential suitors for its other brands Peacocks and Jaeger.
Earlier in October, the high-street billionaire was seeking a capital injection from one of the world’s biggest hedge funds, Davidson Kempner, to save Peacocks.
The company is also said to be holding talks with the owner of shirt-maker TM Lewin, Torque Brands (TQLB), to buy Jaeger, with other parties also interested.
A spokesman for EWM Group said: “Over the past month we explored all possible options to save Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Ponden Home from going into administration, but unfortunately the ongoing trading conditions caused by the pandemic and lockdowns proved too much.
“In the case of Peacocks and Jaeger we are speaking to a number of parties who are interested in either buying parts of the business or offering investment, and those conversations are ongoing.”
While there is interest in parts of the retail empire, it is understood that a further 100 to 150 stores across the group are being earmarked for closure while talks with landlords about reducing rent continue.
Meanwhile, the latest COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in Wales have hampered discussions of the sale of Peacocks, with the firm’s headquarters and distribution centre based in Cardiff.
“Recent months have proven extremely challenging for many retailers, even those that were trading well before the pandemic, including the teams at Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Ponden Home,” Tony Wright, joint administrator and partner at FRP, said.
He added: “The administrations will provide some further protection while we continue our search for buyers to secure the long-term futures for both businesses.
“Regrettably, the impact of Covid-19 on the brands’ core customer base and tighter restrictions on trading mean that the current structure of the businesses is unsustainable and has resulted in redundancies.”
The group, which is based in Langholm, Scotland, was founded in 1947 and is owned by businessman Philip Day. The high street billionaire’s empire also includes Austin Reed, Jacques Vert and Jane Norman.
In October, a research by the Local Data Company (LDC) and PwC UK, said that the first half of 2020 saw a record number of store closures in the UK due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The study showed that 11,120 chain operator outlets have shut so far this year, while 5,119 shops opened. This means a net decline of 6,001 — almost double the decline tracked in 2019.
But, the count could be higher as researchers did not take into account shops which have yet to reopen following the COVID-19 lockdown, with the grim expectation that many will never operate again.
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