Thousands of iconic retailers won’t be returning to business tomorrow after closing their doors forever during the Covid crisis.
Topshop, which was once considered the jewel of the high street, is amongst those that won’t return to trading on Monday, after the collapse of Philip Green’s Arcadia empire in December.
It joins Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridge which also disappeared last year at a loss of thousands of jobs.
In the past year, Britain's oldest department store Debenhams has moved online only while John Lewis has closed 16 stores – including its flagship Birmingham Bullring outlet.
Under stage two of the UK roadmap, many businesses have been told they can reopen on April 12 in a welcome step for the economy.
The rules include hairdressers, salons, clothing outlets and many local businesses such as florists, which will be able to welcome customers after more than three months of closures.
But for hundreds of towns and communities, the high street will never be the same again after caving under the pressure of the pandemic.
Paperchase has lost 27 outlets while Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Bonmarché, Hays Travel and Prezzo have all reduced their store counts.
Sir Philip Green's former retail empire will also run online-only after exchanging hands with new owners of Boohoo and Asos.
More than 17,500 chain store outlets disappeared from high streets, shopping centres and retail parks across Great Britain last year as the Covid-19 pandemic spurred the worst decline on record.
An average of 48 shops, restaurants and other leisure and hospitality venues closed permanently every day across England, Wales and Scotland, and only 21 opened, according to figures compiled by the Local Data Company (LDC), a research provider for the accountancy firm PwC.
Fashion retailers were the hardest hit last year, with more than 1,100 disappearing, as names such as Laura Ashley, Warehouse, Oasis and Jaeger exited the high street.
Betting shops, pubs and bars and restaurants were also hit hard, as Burger King, Pizza Express and Pizza Hut all announced some closures last year.
The casualties wiped out 176,000 retail jobs at a rate of 484 jobs a day, figures from the British Retail Consortium show.
A further 11,986 jobs were lost through company voluntary arrangement (CVA) deals, a controversial insolvency procedure used to close loss-making stores – including River Island, Clarks and New Look in the past 12 months.
The British Retail Consortium's chief executive, Helen Dickinson, said non-food stores have lost more than £22billion over the course of the pandemic.
Lisa Hooker, the head of consumer markets at PwC, added: “The full extent will be revealed in the coming months as many of the [company restructures] and administrations in the early part of 2021 still haven’t been captured, including department stores, fashion retailers and hospitality operators that will leave big holes."
PwC said it had identified 29 major restructuring plans by retailers, hospitality leisure and other consumer-based companies in the second half of 2020 and it expected more to come.
High Street campaigner, Dr. Jackie Mulligan, said Covid has accelerated a change in shopping behaviour, but said the high street is far from disappearing.
“The high street has changed and was changing long before the pandemic hit, but Covid has accelerated that evolution,” Mulligan told The Mirror.
“It simply isn't a level playing field for bricks and mortar businesses anymore. They’re having to compete with purely online retail and that is something the Government must address. They need to look at business rates reform to protecting high street businesses and markets because they play such an important role in local economies.”
Before the pandemic, £1 in every £3 was being spent online," she said.
"At the same time, there was much more interest in shopping locally, especially with independent businesses.
“In the coming months empty high street units will be filled again. There’ll be a lot more smaller independent businesses as well as some larger brands. The big brands are beginning to realise that smaller spaces in traditional town centres can work better for them than large out of town units. “
Britain’s oldest department store had been struggling for years before it went into administration last year, admitting the Covid crisis has exacerbated its financial woes.
The business was later sold to Boohoo for £55million, but all 118 stores were excluded from the exchange.
As a result, the chain is set to disappear from the high street – but not before a quick fire closing down sale.
Administrators this week said 97 stores will reopen on Monday for a last ditch sale.
The department store, which collapsed last year, said it would be offering up to 70% off fashion and homewares and up to 50% off beauty and fragrance in its final closing down sale.
The stores, in England and Wales, will begin to close their doors on 2 May and the process will be completed 13 days later. Debenhams’ 15 Scottish stores and its flagship shop on London’s Oxford Street will not reopen.
The Debenhams’ brand name was bought by online specialist Boohoo for £55m in January after it fell into administration last year. Boohoo plans to relaunch Debs online by the end of May.
“This is the last chance for customers in England and Wales to visit their local Debenhams before sadly our stores close for good. We will be reopening with a fantastic range of offers and discounts across all of our customers’ favourite brands and products,” Debenhams said.
“Stocks are limited and expected to sell out quickly so customers should visit their nearest store quickly to avoid disappointment. We are very grateful for the efforts of our staff who have worked so hard throughout the most difficult of circumstances to keep the business trading.”
Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge
ASOS has rescued Sir Philip Green's flagship Topshop brand for £295million - but that doesn't help the high street.
The online behemoth has acquired Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge and HIIT from the administrators of Arcadia, two months after it collapsed with a £750million deficit.
However, all stores will close, with just 300 jobs saved.
In total, ASOS, which is owned by Scotland's richest man, Anders Holch Povlsen, worth £6.1billion, will pay £265million for the brands, plus a further £30million for all stock.
It will pay an additional £30million to account for any outstanding liabilities and creditor orders.
Approximately 300 employees across design, buying and retail partnerships will transfer to ASOS - at least 2,500 retail jobs will be lost as a result of the takeover.
Preppy brand J Crew has had a tumultuous year battling debt, changing consumer tastes and spending habits. The company filed for bankruptcy on May 4, signalling the start of its demise.
The company closed eight stores in August and a month later closed all UK stores permanently.
A spokesperson for J Crew said: “After thorough review, we have determined we are best able to serve our UK customers through our global ecommerce platform and are closing our six store locations in the country.
“We thank our UK associates for their dedication during this unprecedented time and are working to support their transition.”
J Crew had stores in Brompton Cross, Sloane Square, Marylebone High Street, Redchurch Street, Conduit Street and Regent Street.
Dorothy Perkins, Wallis, Burton
Online fashion giant Boohoo bought parts of Dorothy Perkins, Wallis and Burton earlier this year.
The £25million deal includes the website and stock, but none of the three chain’s 214 stores.
Dorothy Perkins has been a familiar face for generations, with the first shop opening in 1909 under the original name HP Newman.
It was bought out by Arcadia in 1979 but was hit hard when the pandemic bit last year.
Burton is even older, dating back to 1903, and had over 400 stores when Boohoo bought out the brand.
And women's fashion chain Wallis, established in 1923, had 134 shops when the axe fell last year.
Oasis and Warehouse
Efforts to save fashion chains Oasis and Warehouse failed last spring, seeing all stores now closed and 1,803 jobs lost.
The Idle Man and Bastyan Fashions were also part of the group and are now shut permanently too.
Between them, the fashion chains had 92 branches, with another 437 concessions based in third party retailers.
The chains first fell into administration on April 15 before administrators announced their permanent closure.
The iconic retailer of shirts and ties went into pre-pack administration in June, two months after the pandemic reached the UK.
The firm had recently been rescued by Stonebridge Private Equity through its subsidiary Torque Brands, but in the immediacy of the pandemic, the new owner said that the future of the entire retail sector was facing a "very real threat."
The retailer later closed all UK stores and around 600 workers lost their jobs.
The 120-year-old brand firm now operates online-only.
"The Torque team has worked to assess all available avenues for the business model going forwards, but having done so, has formed the view that TM Lewin is no longer a viable going concern in its current format," it said.
Cath Kidston shut all 60 of its UK stores in April 2020 at a loss of more than 900 jobs.
The fashion has confirmed its stores will not reopen once the coronavirus lockdown is over.
Baring Private Equity Asia (BPEA), which has held a stake in the retailer since 2014, said it will buy the online business, brand and wholesale arm from administrators Alvarez & Marsal.
It said the move will result in the "cessation of the retail store network".
Melinda Paraie, chief executive officer of Cath Kidston, said: "While we are pleased that the future of Cath Kidston has been secured, this is obviously an extremely difficult day as we say goodbye to many colleagues.
"Despite our very best efforts, against the backdrop of Covid-19, we were unable to secure a solvent sale of the business which would have allowed us to avoid administration and carry on trading in our current form.
"I would like to thank all our employees for their hard work, loyalty and patience over the last few weeks as we worked through this process."
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