Belfast Telegraph

Austin Reed set for high street return

Menswear retailer Austin Reed is set to return to the high street with 50 new stores, months after it collapsed with the loss of around 1,000 jobs.

Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group, which bought the 116-year-old chain's brand and five concessions from administrators in May, revealed an ambitious £100 million revival plan to relaunch Austin Reed.

It said the new stores would open towards the end of next year, including a flagship store in central London.

Administrators of Austin Reed were forced to shut 120 stores in the summer after they failed to find a buyer for the entire business, with Edinburgh Woollen Mill unwilling to take on the entire store estate as part of its deal.

But Edinburgh Woollen Mill, headed by billionaire retail entrepreneur Philip Day, has since relaunched the Austin Reed brand online with a new autumn/winter collection.

A larger spring/summer collection will follow early next year.

Austin Reed was founded in 1900 as a tailoring business in the City and once counted Winston Churchill and Elizabeth Taylor as customers.

It hit the wall after struggling with its debts and plunging sales, while retail experts said the firm failed to adapt to a multi-channel environment.

The move comes as part of a wider expansion plan announced by Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group, which owns fashion brands Peacocks and Jane Norman as well as the Edinburgh Woollen Mill chain.

It wants to open 200 stores group-wide by early 2018, including the Austin Reed shops, which will create more than 2,000 jobs.

The firm said it comes on the back of rising sales and record profits for the year to February 27.

Steve Simpson, group commercial director of Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group, said: "With the addition of Austin Reed, which we acquired earlier this year, as well as Country Casuals and Viyella, we aim to continue this organic growth, while always being ready to respond to other opportunities as they arise."

The group, which also owns homewares retailer Ponden Mill and golfing brand Pro-Quip, posted a 2.4% rise in underlying annual pre-tax profits to £90.9 million after growing total sales to £576.3 million from £562.6 million a year earlier.

Bottom line profits fell 14.5% to £89.8 million.

The group opened 43 shops in the year to the end of February and has more than 980 outlets across the UK, as well as concessions and online stores.

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