Retailers across the UK have been struggling for years due to online competition and rising cost like rents and business rates. But the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic was the final nail in the coffin for many of them.
With ‘non-essential’ stores forced to close down to comply with and lockdowns and restrictions to curb the spread of the virus – and fewer customers and tourists walking into shops even when they were open – most retailers have seen sales plummet.
While some managed to stay afloat by taking furlough cash, cutting jobs and closing down stores, others have had to call in administrators, put the shutters down for good, or attract bidders.
High Street changes: The Covid-19 pandemic was the final nail in the coffin for some retailers
As the UK is under a new national lockdown until at least mid-February, more failures will likely follow this year unless retailers boost their online presence, according to ParcelHero.
Just last week, Paperchase revealed it was on the brink of administration after Covid-19 restrictions placed ‘unbearable strain’ on the card and gift retailer’s Christmas sales.
David Jinks at ParcelHero says: ‘By last November, online shopping had snatched 34 per cent of all retail sales. It’s little wonder many favourite British brands hit the rocks last year.’
Here, we look at the retailers that went bust and disappeared once and for all in 2020, as well as those which re-emerged as online-only businesses or were slimmed down after being bought out of administration.
Harveys Furniture was put into administration by its owners, Alteri Investors, at the end of June 2020, with the immediate loss of 240 jobs.
The group’s stores, around 100, have continued to trade as administrators PwC continue to look for a buyer.
Harveys Furniture was put into administration by its owners, Alteri Investors, in June 2020
The company is no longer taking online orders, but says on its website that it will honour those made before it went into administration.
Harveys opened its first store on Mare Street in East London in 1966, selling living room and dining room furniture, textiles and home furnishings.
In 2003, Harveys made the decision to move to a furniture only business, removing all textiles from their product portfolio.
It changed hands several times over the years, being first acquired by Steinhoff International in 2005 and then taken over by Blue Group – also part of Steinhoff – in 2010.
In November 2019, Blue Group was sold by Steinhoff to private equity owner Alteri Investors.
Bensons for Beds
Harvey’s sister furniture chain, Bensons for Beds, also fell into administration in June last year, but was immediately bought back by Alteri in a ‘prepack deal’.
Bensons for Beds, which has around 240 stores, has continued to trade from around 170 stores.
The chain was founded as a general store by Cyril Benson in 1950 and the business launched their first bed centre in 1972.
Department store chain Beales has closed down for good after going into administration in January 2020 and the last remaining stores shut down in March.
It was founded by John Elmes Beale and opened as The Fancy Flair in Bournemouth in 1881. Eventually it branched out to open another 21 stores across the UK, employing a total of 1,300 staff.
Gone: Department store chain Beales has closed down for good
Beales bought up other department store chains including Westgate and Palmers to add to its growing portrolio of shops.
Most recently it bought Palmers department store in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk in November 2018.
The company floated on the London stock exchange in 1995 but was returned to private ownership under chief executive Tony Brown in October 2018, who launched a strategy overhaul in early 2019 to revamp the shop and its offering.
The company employed approximately 1,050 people before announcing its first closures.
Women’s fashion chain Bonmarche collapsed into administration in December, but it was bought by Purepay Retail last week.
The deal secured the future of 72 Bonmarche stores and 387 store staff, with administrators RSM looking at options for the remaining 148 stores, which are currently closed due to lockdown.
Bonmarche was owned by retail tycoon Philip Day, whose other chains – Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Peacocks, Ponden Home stores and Jaeger – also collapsed into administration in November last year.
Purepay is a consortium of investors led by Steve Simpson, who is the existing chief operating officer of EWM Group.
Bonmarche collapsed into administration in December, but it was bought by Purepay Retail this week, which is controlled by former owner Philip Day
Bonmarché was founded in 1982 by Gurchait and Gurnaik Chima, who started with a stall at Huddersfield open market, with the first actual store opening in 1985 in Doncaster.
The business was sold to the Peacock Group for £51.3million in 2002, which then sold it to private equity group Sun European Partners in 2012.
Bonmarche went into administration in October 2019 before being rescued by EWM.
Edinburgh Woollen Mill
Another one of the brands of Day’s EWM Grup, Edinburgh Woollen Mill was bought out of administration this month.
Administrators at FRP confirmed 246 stores would be saved by Purepay Retail.
However, 85 Edinburgh Woollen Mill stores have been permanently closed.
Jaeger will disappear from the High Street, but its clothes will be sold in M&S.
All of its 63 stores will close down and its 233 staff will be made redundant.
But this week, M&S sealed a deal to buy the Jaeger’s brand and stock for an undisclosed amount understood to be around £5million (but not its stores and concessions).
Jaeger collapsed in November along alongside sister firm Peacocks, both part of Dubai-based entrepreneur Philip Day’s group EWM.
Jaeger will disappear from the High Street, but its clothes will be sold in M&S
The fashion chain, which has more than 400 stores, remains in administration, having collapsed in November alongside Jaeger.
It continues to sell online, while some stores may never reopen once lockdown is lifted as closing down sales took place in some shops before Christmas.
The rent-to-own store went into administration in March, putting more than 2,000 jobs at risk.
All 240 stores had to then close due to the Covid lockdown, and it now appears they will not reopen.
The business is still functioning, but no new loans are being offered to customers.
Cath Kidston tumbled into administration in April after a downturn in profitability, leading to all 60 UK stores being closed with a loss of 900 jobs.
Months later, it was rescued by parent company Baring Private Equity Asia and returned as an online-only operation.
Cath Kidston is now an online-only business
However, the brand made a small high street comeback in December following the rescue deal, with only five stores left open.
These include its flagship store in London’s Piccadilly, which reopened ahead of Christmas, although it said it was an ‘experiential’ store to showcase products it will sell online.
Fashion designer Cath Kidston began her eponymous chain in 1993 as a single London store selling vintage fabric and finds from car boot sales.
DW Sports, once one of the leading sports shop brands in the country, has been saved out of administration but it will stop trading under its name.
Formed in 2009 and owned by former footballer turned chairman Dave Whelan, DW fell into administration in August.
Shortly after the administration announcement was made, Dave Whelan’s long time rival Mike Ashley’s Fraser Group bought 46 leisure clubs and 31 retail outlets from DW Sports Fitness for £37million, but said it would not be using the firm’s brand name.
The move saved more than 900 jobs.
DW Sports was rescued by Mike Ashley’s Fraser Group, who dropped the brand name
Department store chain Debenhams is set to disappear from the High Street as a liquidation process began last month after it failed to secure a last-minute rescue sale.
Last week, it said it will permanently close six branches, including its flagship London Oxford Street shop, with the loss of 320 jobs.
Stores in Portsmouth, Staines, Harrogate, Weymouth and Worcester will also not reopen once lockdown is lifted.
Administrator FRP Advisory said it is continuing to talk with potential suitors over the sale of all or parts of the business. It still intends to reopen as many stores as possible to sell off stock, despite coronavirus restrictions keeping non-essential retailers shut.
The chain has been continuing to sell its stock through its online platform.
Closing down sales: Debenhams liquidation process began last month
Menswear company Burton is one of the brands of Arcadia – Philip Green’s retail empire which collapsed into administration at the end of November.
The retailer continues to trade while in administration.
Burton was founded in 1903 by Montague Burton and has belonged to Arcadia since 1967. (Green bought the Arcadia Group in 2002).
The business changed from making suits to uniforms during the First World War and continued its expansion efforts in post-war Britain to achieve 400 stores by 1929, when it went public on the London Stock Exchange.
It sells mid-market menswear, targeting young to middle-aged men, and is known for its off-the-rack suits and formalwear.
Also part of Arcadia Group, it continues to trade while administrators look for a buyer.
Plus-size clothing brand Evans became the first in the Arcadia stable to be bought out of the retail giant’s administration process.
The group was taken over for £23million by Australian group City Chic, however the deal did not include its bricks and mortar business.
As a result, Evans said it would not reopen its five remaining UK stores.
Plus-size clothing brand Evans will not reopen its UK stores
Also part of Arcadia, the fashionable clothing chain aimed at teenagers and young women continues to trade while in administration.
Topshop, by far Arcadia’s biggest and best-known brand, continues to trade under administration.
Its flagship store in London’s Oxford Circus has closed for good, with the building it’s housed in having been put up for sale, according to reports.
The fashion chain is said to be circled by a number of buyers, including retailer Next.
The fashion chain is said to be circled by a number of buyers, including retailer Next
The fashion chain part of Arcadia and aimed at women in their 30s and 40s continues to trade under administration.
Go Outdoors, which sells camping, fishing and cycling equipment and employs about 2,400 staff, went into administration in June, but its owner JD Sports bought it back in a pre-packed administration.
The deal let JD avoid pricey leases which left many of the 67 shops that sell kit for camping unprofitable after coronavirus.
Gift and toy chain Hawkin’s Bazaar collapsed into administration at the start of 2020.
The brand was then bought by H Grossman and now operates only online.
No more stores: Gift and toy chain Hawkin’s Bazaar now operates online only
Retail landlord Intu collapsed in administration in June but all its shopping centres remain open.
Intu owns Manchester’s Trafford Centre and Lakeside in Essex.
The US-based clothing brand closed all its UK stores in 2020.
Laura Ashley collapsed into administration in March, but it is returning to the UK high street this year in a new partnership with Next – which will sell its homeware products – and with a series of new stores.
Laura Ashley is returning to the UK high street this year in a new partnership with Next
M & Co
Scottish fashion retailer M&Co closed down 47 stores and axed 380 jobs as part of a pre-pack administration in August.
Oak Furniture Land
Hardwood furniture retailer Oak Furnitureland closed down 27 of its 105 showrooms and stores.
The Swindon-based business, which sells dining tables, mattresses as well as office furniture, was bought out by global investment firm Davidson Kempner Capital Management in a pre-packed administration in June last year.
Oasis and Warehouse
The two sister fashion chains have disappeared from the high street, but their brands and online operations have been bought by Boohoo.
More than 1,800 jobs were lost after Oasis and Warehouse – founded in 1991 and 1976 consecutively – said they would not reopen any of their stores again in April.
The Oasis Warehouse group, which had 92 branches and 437 concessions at department stores, had been owned by failed Icelandic bank Kaupthing.
Administrators for Kaupthing attempted to dispose of the brands in 2017 but held on after failing to secure a buyer.
In 2020, the brands themselves needed administrators and wound up their retail store business after failing to find last-minute suitors.
Nevertheless, the brands have had a new lease of life online after Boohoo bought them to sell through its website later in the year.
Gone from the High Street: But Oasis’ online operations have been bought by Boohoo
The off-licence chain was bought out of administration by an unknown bidder in July.
More than half of its stores have remained open.
Fashion chain Quiz, which specialises in going out, dressy clothes, was bought out in a pre-pack deal by its owner in September.
Some 15 of its 75 stores have closed down permanently.
The formal menswear company has closed down all its stores, but continues to trade online.
Early in 2020, the retailer was bought by Stonebridge Private Equity through its subsidiary Torque Brands.
Just two months later, the new owners revealed plans to close the 122-year-old firm’s entire network of 66 shops, with the loss of around 600 jobs.
Thomas Mayes Lewin opened the first T.M.Lewin store in Jermyn Street, London in 1898.
Mr Lewin was a pioneer in the shirt industry, responsible for creating the first button down ‘coat-shirt’, a prototype of all modern shirts that exist today, according to a profile on the company’s website.
The UK arm of the US high-end lingerie brand went into administration in June.
It is now joint-owned by fashion retailer Next, which bought a majority stake in September.
Victoria Secret’s 25 UK stores continued to trade while in administration, although it is not clear if they will all reopen once lockdown is lifted.
The UK arm of the US high-end lingerie brand went into administration in June
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