Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Ponden Home go into administration


High street chains Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Ponden Home have collapsed into administration with 866 jobs axed and hundreds more under threat.

A total of 64 stores – 56 Edinburgh Woollen Mill and eight Ponden Home – will stay permanently closed. 

The remaining 328 EWM and 65 Ponden Home stores will continue to trade, Covid-19 restrictions permitting, whilst a buyer is sought.

However, sources close to the process say they believe a buyer is unlikely to be found and a total of 2,571 staff face losing their jobs.

Tony Wright, joint administrator and partner at FRP, said: ‘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.

A total of 64 stores under the Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Ponden Home fascias – 56 of the former and eight of the latter – will remain permanently closed

‘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.’

Separately, EWM Group – owned by businessman 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.

The retailer said 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.

It is understood there is interest in parts of the business but a further 100 to 150 stores across the group are being earmarked for closure while talks continue with landlords on reducing rents.

Discussions on the sale of the Peacocks brand were also hit by lockdown restrictions in Wales, with the company’s headquarters and distribution centre based in Cardiff.

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.

Edinburgh Woollen Mill is owned by businessman Philip Day, who has a fortune of £1.05billion

Edinburgh Woollen Mill is owned by businessman Philip Day, who has a fortune of £1.05billion

The closing down sale for The Edinburgh Woollen Mill store in Kingston-Upon-Thames

The closing down sale for The Edinburgh Woollen Mill store in Kingston-Upon-Thames

‘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.’

The company is reportedly in talks with the owner of shirt-maker TM Lewin – Torque Brands – to buy Jaeger and other parties are said to be interested.

It is also reported to be trying to save Peacocks, with a capital injection from US hedge fund Davidson Kempner.

Last month the company lodged a notice of intention to appoint administrators to look for potential buyers to shore up the struggling business.

Bosses wrote to staff on October 9, warning them the national and local lockdowns had hit sales very heavily.

If the company goes under and all jobs are lost it will be Britain’s largest business casualty so far.

From dyeing yarn to fashion: The EWM story 

Edinburgh Woollen Mill was first founded in 1946 by Drew Stevenson as the Langholm Dyeing and Finishing Company and chiefly dyed yarn.

By 1970, when it opened its first shop Edinburgh, then two years later opened another across the border in Carlisle.

It was taken over by a management buy-in led by Philip Day and is now an independent privately-owned business 100% held by his family. 

It acquired the Jaeger brand in 2017 and Peacocks came earlier in 2012 when it was taken in after going into administration. 

The unenviable record had previously been held by British Airways shedding 12,000 roles back in April.

EWM said it had been hit hard by allegations – which it has denied – that the retailer and several rivals failed to pay some Bangladeshi suppliers during lockdown in an attempt to cut costs for clothes they were unlikely to sell. 

The move for the firm, owned by businessman Philip Day, saw insolvency specialists at FRP spend 10 days carrying out an urgent review. 

EWM chief executive Steve Simpson previously 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.

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

Jaeger is part of the Edinburgh Woollen Mill empire and is now under threat of closure

Jaeger is part of the Edinburgh Woollen Mill empire and is now under threat of closure

‘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.’  

How more than 210,000 job losses have been revealed by major UK firms since lockdown began 

Some 210,781 job losses have been announced by major British employers since the start of the coronavirus lockdown in March as follows:

  • October 7 – Greene King – 800 
  • October 6 – Virgin Money – 400 
  • October 6 – Vp – 150 
  • October 5 – Cineworld – 5,500 (many cuts likely to be temporary) 
  • September 30 – TSB – 900 
  • September 30 – Shell – 9,000 worldwide 
  • September 29 – Ferguson – 1,200
  • September 22 – Wetherspoon – 400 to 450
  • September 22 – Whitbread – 6,000
  • September 18 – Investec – 210
  • September 15 – Waitrose – 124
  • September 14 – London City Airport – 239
  • September 9 – Lloyds Bank – 865
  • September 9 – Pizza Hut – 450
  • September 4 – Virgin Atlantic – 1,150
  • September 3 – Costa – 1,650
  • August 27 – Pret a Manger – 2,800 (includes 1,000 announced on July 6)
  • August 26 – Gatwick Airport – 600
  • August 25 – Co-operative Bank – 350
  • August 20 – Alexander Dennis – 650
  • August 18 – Bombardier – 95
  • August 18 – Marks & Spencer – 7,000
  • August 14 – Yo! Sushi – 250
  • August 14 – River Island – 350
  • August 12 – NatWest – 550
  • August 11 – InterContinental Hotels – 650 worldwide
  • August 11 – Debenhams – 2,500
  • August 7 – Evening Standard – 115
  • August 6 – Travelex – 1,300
  • August 6 – Wetherspoons – 110 to 130
  • August 5 – M&Co – 380
  • August 5 – Arsenal FC – 55
  • August 5 – WH Smith – 1,500
  • August 4 – Dixons Carphone – 800
  • August 4 – Pizza Express – 1,100 at risk
  • August 3 – Hays Travel – up to 878
  • August 3 – DW Sports – 1,700 at risk
  • July 31 – Byron – 651
  • July 30 – Pendragon – 1,800
  • July 29 – Waterstones – unknown number of head office roles
  • July 28 – Selfridges – 450
  • July 27 – Oak Furnitureland – 163 at risk
  • July 23 – Dyson – 600 in UK, 300 overseas
  • July 22 – Mears – fewer than 200
  • July 20 – Marks & Spencer – 950 at risk
  • July 17 – Azzurri Group (owns Zizzi and Ask Italian) – up to 1,200
  • July 16 – Genting – 1,642 at risk
  • July 16 – Burberry – 150 in UK, 350 overseas
  • July 15 – Banks Mining – 250 at risk
  • July 15 – Buzz Bingo – 573 at risk
  • July 14 – Vertu – 345 July 14 – DFS – up to 200 at risk
  • July 9 – General Electric – 369
  • July 9 – Eurostar – unknown number
  • July 9 – Boots – 4,000
  • July 9 – John Lewis – 1,300 at risk
  • July 9 – Burger King – 1,600 at risk
  • July 7 – Reach (owns Daily Mirror and Daily Express newspapers) – 550
  • July 6 – Pret a Manger – 1,000 at risk
  • July 2 – Casual Dining Group (owns Bella Italia and Cafe Rouge) – 1,909
  • July 1 – SSP (owns Upper Crust) – 5,000 at risk
  • July 1 – Arcadia (owns TopShop) – 500
  • July 1 – Harrods – 700
  • July 1 – Virgin Money – 300
  • June 30 – Airbus – 1,700
  • June 30 – TM Lewin – 600
  • June 30 – Smiths Group – ‘some job losses’
  • June 25 – Royal Mail – 2,000
  • June 24 – Jet2 – 102
  • June 24 – Swissport – 4,556
  • June 24 – Crest Nicholson – 130
  • June 23 – Shoe Zone – unknown number of jobs in head office
  • June 19 – Aer Lingus – 500
  • June 17 – HSBC – unknown number of jobs in UK, 35,000 worldwide
  • June 15 – Jaguar Land Rover – 1,100
  • June 15 – Travis Perkins – 2,500
  • June 12 – Le Pain Quotidien – 200
  • June 11 – Heathrow – at least 500
  • June 11 – Bombardier – 600
  • June 11 – Johnson Matthey – 2,500
  • June 11 – Centrica – 5,000
  • June 10 – Quiz – 93
  • June 10 – The Restaurant Group (owns Frankie and Benny’s) – 3,000
  • June 10 – Monsoon Accessorise – 545
  • June 10 – Everest Windows – 188
  • June 8 – BP – 10,000 worldwide
  • June 8 – Mulberry – 375
  • June 5 – Victoria’s Secret – 800 at risk
  • June 5 – Bentley – 1,000
  • June 4 – Aston Martin – 500
  • June 4 – Lookers – 1,500
  • May 29 – Belfast International Airport – 45
  • May 28 – Debenhams (in second announcement) – ‘hundreds’ of jobs
  • May 28 – EasyJet – 4,500 worldwide
  • May 26 – McLaren – 1,200
  • May 22 – Carluccio’s – 1,000
  • May 21 – Clarks – 900
  • May 20 – Rolls-Royce – 9,000
  • May 20 – Bovis Homes – unknown number
  • May 19 – Ovo Energy – 2,600
  • May 19 – Antler – 164
  • May 15 – JCB – 950 at risk
  • May 13 – Tui – 8,000 worldwide
  • May 12 – Carnival UK (owns P&O Cruises and Cunard) – 450
  • May 11 – P&O Ferries – 1,100 worldwide
  • May 5 – Virgin Atlantic – 3,150
  • May 1 – Ryanair – 3,000 worldwide
  • April 30 – Oasis Warehouse – 1,800
  • April 29 – WPP – unknown number
  • April 28 – British Airways – 12,000
  • April 23 – Safran Seats – 400
  • April 23 – Meggitt – 1,800 worldwide
  • April 21 – Cath Kidston – 900
  • April 17 – Debenhams – 422
  • March 31 – Laura Ashley – 268
  • March 30 – BrightHouse – 2,400 at risk
  • March 27 – Chiquito – 1,500 at risk

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