Bonmarché joins high street fashion casualties

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In the latest bleak news from the high street, fashion chain Bonmarché has entered administration putting 1,500 jobs at risk.

Owned by by Dubai-based billionaire Philip Day, Bonmarché joins its sister firms Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Peacocks and Jaeger in the search for a new buyer.

The women’s chain has 225 stores around the UK which will continue to trade while negotiations hopefully take place with potential purchasers.

Damian Webb and Gordon Thomson of RSM Restructuring Advisory have been appointed as joint administrators of the firm, known as BM Retail Limited.

Mr Webb confirmed the stores would carry on trading while options for the future of the business were explored. He added: “Bonmarché remains an attractive brand with a loyal customer base. We will shortly be marketing the business for sale and based on the interest to date, we anticipate there will be a number of interested parties.”

Bonmarché is no stranger to administration having endured the uncertainty it entails on three previous occasions, most recently in October last year. But the coronavirus pandemic may yet to prove to be the final straw.

In 2012 the chain had a 3,800-strong workforce before it collapsed and was purchased by a private equity firm. This led to 160 stores being closed and 1,400 job losses.

The chain was floated on the stock exchange in 2013 but has continued to struggle. Day built up a stake in 2019 and then brought the rest of it in a £5.7m deal, only for it to fall into administration a few months later.

He then went on to buy it back in February in what’s known as a pre-pack deal, after blaming some of its woes on “Brexit uncertainty”. The move allowed him to cut costs and reduce the number of stores – and left suppliers out of pocket.

It is thought that a pre-pack deal may yet be in the offing for Peacocks and Jaeger unless a buyer is found.

Tony Wright, a partner at business consultancy FRP, the joint administrator for Peacocks and Jaeger, has indicated that they are “attractive brands that have suffered the well-known challenges that many retailers face at present. We are in advanced discussions with a number of parties and working hard to secure a future for both businesses.” If not, some 4,700 jobs are at stake.

Philip Day is also the main benefactor of Carlisle United FC and also invests in wildlife conservation and green energy.

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