More jobs at risk as menswear chain Austin Reed follows BHS into administration


Nearly another 1,200 high street jobs are under threat after 116-year-old retailer Austin Reed collapsed into administration just a day after the failure of BHS.

Global business advisory firm AlixPartners was appointed administrator to the menswear group, which has 100 stores, 50 concessions and employs 1,184 staff.

Austin Reed will continue to trade while AlixPartners seeks a rescue deal for all or part of the business.

The move deals another blow to Britain's high street following the administration of BHS on Monday, which has put 11,000 jobs under threat and threatened the closure of up to 164 stores in the biggest retail failure since Woolworths went under in 2008.

Austin Reed, which also has the Viyella and Country Casuals brands, blamed its woes on "cash flow difficulties" and "challenging retail market conditions".

It revealed plans to appoint advisers to handle an administration late last week.

Austin Reed, which was founded in 1900, has suffered years of falling sales as it has failed to attract younger shoppers.

The group, whose famous clients include International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde, had been put on the sale block in recent weeks but has reportedly been unable to find a buyer.

Peter Saville, joint administrator at AlixPartners, said: "Our priority now is to work with all stakeholders and determine the optimum route forward for the business as we continue to serve customers throughout the UK and Ireland.

"Austin Reed is a well-regarded and iconic brand and therefore we are confident that it is an attractive proposition for a range of potential buyers, as such we expect, and welcome, contact from interested third parties."

The administration comes just a day after BHS hit the rocks, which followed failed last-ditch talks to find a buyer over the weekend.

Former BHS owner Sir Philip Green is now facing calls from Labour MP John Mann to repay dividends taken from the company or be stripped of his knighthood.

Sir Philip has been branded by MPs as the "unacceptable face of capitalism" and accused of taking hundreds of millions of pounds from the high street chain before running off to "his favourite tax haven".

Sir Philip, boss of the Arcadia Group, sold BHS last year to the consortium Retail Acquisitions (RA) for £1, with debts exceeding £1.3 billion and a pension fund deficit of £571 million.

Austin Reed has also been struggling with its debts and plunging sales.

The latest set of accounts showed pre-tax losses widening to £5.4 million in the year to January 31 2015, up from £1.3 million the previous year after sales dropped 8% to £100.5 million.

Austin Reed agreed to offload 31 outlets after securing a company voluntary arrangement with its creditors in February 2015.

The group also last year received financial backing from Alteri Investors, a specialist retail vehicle, which recently took control of the group.

It is thought Alteri may look to buy Austin Reed from the administrator while Better Capital, the private equity firm which already owns fashion chain Jaeger, is also said to be among possible suitors to rescue Austin Reed, according to Sky News.

But a raft of loss-making shops are expected to close even after a rescue deal.

Austin Reed moved out of its flagship London store at 113 Regent Street in 2011, moving into smaller premises nearby, which are also now up for sale.

Austin Leonard Reed founded the group in 1900, with the first London shop opened in Fenchurch Street.

John Hannett , Usdaw general secretary, said: "The staff at Austin Reed will be shocked by this announcement after the company changed hands only a week ago. We will be providing the support, advice and representation our members require at this difficult and worrying time.

"The Government has promised me a meeting about the future of retail and how we can work together to help save the high street.

"I look forward to that happening very soon, because it is a very difficult time for retailers and action is required on tackling crippling overheads, such as rates and rents, putting more money in customers' pockets by reducing VAT, and raising the skills and incomes of shop workers."