High-street fashion chains Oasis and Warehouse are to close permanently with the loss of more than 1,800 jobs, after administrators failed to find a buyer to rescue them.
The two brands and some stock had been sold to restructuring specialist Hilco Capital, the administrators said on Thursday, but their online outlets, 92 stores and 400-plus concessions across the UK will close “indefinitely”.
“It is with great sadness that we have to announce a sale of the business has not been possible and that we are announcing so many redundancies today,” said Rob Harding, joint administrator at Deloitte.
The fashion group, which also includes The Idle Man brand, is owned by Kaupthing, the “bad bank” running off assets acquired by Icelandic banks and other investors before the global financial crisis. Last year, it sold the Karen Millen and Coast brands to Boohoo, the online retailer, via a “pre-pack” administration.
Deloitte was appointed to the Oasis group this month and had hoped to reopen stores after the lockdown. But it said the costs of delivering clothes bought over the internet had kept rising until a decision was made to suspend online trading last week, at which point it became “clear” that it would not be possible to sell the business.
“Covid-19 has presented extraordinary challenges which have devastated the retail industry,” Mr Harding said.
Kaupthing had hoped to sell the business as a going concern, but that plan was derailed by the onset of coronavirus, which has led to empty high streets and plummeting demand. Laura Ashley, Cath Kidston and Debenhams have also recently appointed administrators, with the latter pursuing a “light touch” administration that keeps existing management in place.
John Stevenson, analyst at Peel Hunt, said it would be hard to find buyers for retail businesses in the current situation. “No one knows how exit from lockdown will look like.”
Hashim Ladha, who was appointed chief executive of Oasis and its associated brands in late 2018, left the company this week. He had enjoyed some success in extending the company’s loans and improving online trading.
In the year to March 2019, the last for which accounts are available, the group returned to a small profit having lost £10m the previous year.