Belfast Telegraph

Collapse of retailer Austin Reed puts 50 Northern Ireland jobs at risk

By Holly Williams

Up to 50 jobs here are believed to be in danger after 116-year-old retailer Austin Reed collapsed into administration just a day after the failure of BHS.

Advisory firm AlixPartners was appointed as joint administrator to the menswear group, which has 100 stores, 50 concessions and employs 1,184 staff.

Austin Reed, which has a branch in the Junction One retail park and another operating as Viyella in Belfast, will keep trading while a rescue deal is sought.

The news follows the collapse of BHS on Monday, which put 11,000 jobs at risk and threatened the closure of 164 stores in the biggest retail failure since Woolworths went under in 2008.

Austin Reed, which owns the Country Casuals brand, blamed its woes on "cashflow difficulties" and "challenging retail market conditions". It revealed plans to appoint advisers to handle an administration late last week.

The group, which was founded in 1900, suffered years of falling sales as it failed to attract younger people. It was put on the sale block in recent weeks but was reportedly unable to find a buyer.

Peter Saville, joint administrator at AlixPartners, said: "Our priority is to determine the optimum route for the business as we continue to serve customers.

"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 clothing retailer had been struggling with its debts and plunging sales.

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

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

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

It is believed that Alteri may look to buy Austin Reed from the administrator, though loss-making shops are still likely to be closed down.

Belfast Telegraph

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