Edinburgh Woollen Mills set for administration, 24,000 jobs at risk

LONDON (Reuters) - The owner of British clothing retailers Edinburgh Woollen Mills, Peacock’s and Jaeger is on the brink of administration, putting 24,000 jobs at risk and joining a growing list of store groups struggling to survive the COVID-19 crisis.

The privately owned EWM Group said on Friday it had filed a Notice to Appoint Administrators with the high court, giving the business a short “breathing space” to assess its options.

It said it had received a number of expressions of interest for various parts of the group and these were being assessed along with all other options.

At the end of that process the group will appoint FRP Advisory as administrators who will carry out the necessary restructuring of the wider business.

“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,” said Chief Executive Steve Simpson.

“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.”

Britain’s non-food retailers, already struggling with high rents and business taxes, tight margins and online competition, have been hammered by the pandemic. Hundreds of store closures and thousands of job losses have already been announced.

Already weak players such as Laura Ashley, Debenhams, Oasis Warehouse and Cath Kidston have all fallen into administration.

Reporting by Muvija M in Bengaluru and James Davey in London, Editing by Aditya Soni, Kirsten Donovan