Belfast Telegraph

Worrying week for Arcadia Group's Northern Ireland staff with future of company in focus

Ryan McAleer

By Ryan McAleer

Hundreds of retail fashion workers across Northern Ireland face an uncertain week as creditors and landlords are to vote on the future of Sir Philip Green's Arcadia Group tomorrow.

The group owns around 78 Topshop, Burton, Evans, Wallis, Outfit. Miss Selfridge and Dorothy Perkins outlets here.

The figure includes both stand-alone stores and the many concessions which Arcadia operates within independent fashion outlets, including Menarys and Ulster Stores.

If landlords and the Pensions Regulator reject the restructuring proposals to shut 50 UK stores and cut rents, the high street fashion chain could go into administration this week.

None of the stores identified for closure are here, but the proposals will seek to cut rents on just under 200 of Arcadia's 560 UK shops.

Dorothy Perkins remains Arcadia's most widespread brand here, with around 20 outlets. Wallis has 18 shops and Topshop/Topman has 15, while there are 13 Miss Selfridge shops and 11 Burton stores.

However, Arcadia's reach across the province has been extended by its link-up with a number of independent retailers, including Menarys Retail Ltd.

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Alongside its own brand stores, the Moygashel-based Menarys owns the Tempest chain, which features a series of Arcadia brands.

A report filed by the company last year put its workforce at 322.

Arcadia's brands operate from a number of stores operated by Banbridge-based retailer Houstons and Ulster Stores, which runs the Moores of Coleraine outlet.

It also has a presence in House of Fraser and Debenhams.

Arcadia has closed around 200 UK stores in the last three years.

As well as cutting rents, the rescue deal on the table, otherwise known as a company voluntary arrangement (CVA), proposes to halve the contributions to its pension funds, which have a deficit of £750m, to £25m each year.

The Pensions Regulator, which could block the CVA, has expressed concerns on whether it will adequately protect the pensions of the fashion chain's workers. Sir Philip Green has been urged to inject his own cash to support the fund.

For the proposal to pass, Arcadia must secure the backing of three-quarters of its creditors, which include landlords, creditors and the company's pension trustees.

Meanwhile, the Icelandic owners of Karen Millen are reportedly considering selling the well-known high street fashion brand.

Sky News has reported that Kaupthing has appointed accountancy firm Deloitte to manage the process. It's understood the sale could take several months to conclude.

Karen Millen has just one outlet in Northern Ireland at the Victoria Square shopping complex in Belfast city centre.

Belfast Telegraph