Belfast Telegraph

Discount retailer goes into administration for second time

A discount fashion retailer with five stores in Northern Ireland collapsed into administration for the second time in less than two years yesterday, leaving 3,714 UK jobs hanging in the balance.

Ethel Austin and its sister homewares chain, Au Naturale, have fallen victim to worse than expected trading in January and a failure to secure a refinancing deal. MCR, the restructuring specialist, was appointed administrator of both chains yesterday.

The fashion business, which was founded by Ethel Austin in her living room in Liverpool in 1934, joins a growing list of retailers to hit the buffers over recent weeks, including Adams, the childrenswear chain. MCR will continue to trade both Ethel Austin and Au Naturale, which has 35 shops, primarily in Scotland, in the short term as it tries to find a purchaser of the businesses as a going concern.

There are Ethel Austin and Au Naturale stores in Belfast, Londonderry, Bangor, Portadown and Newry, which are thought to employ around 80 people.

Industry sources yesterday suggested that MK One executive Elaine McPherson, who rescued the retailers in 2008, may be considering rescuing both chains again as part of a pre-pack administration.

Belfast Telegraph