United Kingdom

Rivals circle ruins of Arcadia after collapse

The hunt is on for buyers of the bombed-out brands left behind after Sir Philip Green's retail empire went bust.

Arcadia, which owns Topshop, Miss Selfridge, Wallis and Dorothy Perkins, crashed into administration on Monday putting 13,000 jobs at risk.

Administrators at Deloitte are searching for buyers to save the brands, and the flagship Topshop store on Oxford Street in London could be sold.

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The demise of Arcadia was yesterday followed by the collapse of Debenhams, which will now trade its last Christmas after 242 years before shutting with the loss of 12,000 jobs.

Rescue talks between the department store's administrators and potential buyer JD Sports were abandoned after Arcadia, the biggest operator of concessions at Debenhams, filed for administration. 

With Debenhams set to disappear, Deloitte is looking to rescue all or part of the Arcadia business.

And KPMG has been appointed as administrator to Redcastle, a subsidiary of Arcadia that owns the Topshop and Topman store at 214 Oxford Street which welcomed 400,000 shoppers each week before coronavirus struck.

Pressure on Green over pensions 

Sir Philip Green could be forced to appear before MPs if he fails to plug a black hole in the Arcadia pension scheme.

It is labouring under an estimated £350million deficit in its retirement fund. Under a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) deal last year, Green's wife Tina, the owner of Arcadia, agreed to contribute £100million cash and £210million of security over property assets to the schemes over three years.

It is understood she has paid £50million of the £100million, with £50million promised by September. But that would still leave a deficit of £90million.

Stephen Timms, chair of the work and pensions select committee, questioned the status of the CVA deal now that Arcadia has entered administration. He said: 'Will the Green family provide the funding needed?'

Timms said MPs could forced to intervene. He said: 'The money needs to be paid. If it is, then there is no need for Green to appear before the committee.'

Business Secretary Alok Sharma tweeted that administrators have a duty to report on director conduct, adding: 'I will be keeping a very close eye on this process.'

The store was valued at £400million last year when Apollo Global Management provided a £310million loan secured against the building. 

But it is feared it is worth less than that now, given the crisis engulfing the High Street.

Experts said a single buyer for Arcadia was unlikely given its eight brands and 466 stores, paving the way for it to be broken up. 

Topshop, Topman and Miss Selfridge, which still have a big following, are likely to attract most interest. Other brands such as Evans, Burton and Outfit will be harder to shift.

Sources said there had already been 'significant interest' in Topshop and other brands, including 'some offers'.

Frasers Group, which owns House of Fraser and Sports Direct and is run by Mike Ashley, has expressed interest.

M&S has been looking for complementary brands to widen its appeal, and Boohoo has a £200million war chest for deals, and has bought Oasis and Warehouse.

Retail analyst Richard Hyman said: 'All Arcadia's brands are attractive to Boohoo. There's lots of potential revenue there, and Boohoo bosses are heavily incentivised to grow the business.'

Asos is committed to building its own brands, suggesting it may not be in the market for any Arcadia businesses. But it already sells Topshop clothes on its website and could make a move.

It is likely online retailers will be approached once sale options involving stores have been exhausted. 

Retail expert Andrew Busby said: 'Topshop is a strong brand, but I can't see Dorothy Perkins, Wallis, Evans, Burton surviving much longer. They don't command any sort of respect, they don't inspire or excite. Why would you buy those products?

'Boohoo, M&S and Next could be interested, and Mike Ashley has to be in the reckoning.'

The crisis at Debenhams and Arcadia marks the bleakest week for the High Street since the collapse of Woolworths in 2008, with the loss of 27,000 jobs.

Over 140,000 retail jobs were lost in the UK between January and November 6, with losses forecast to rise to 235,700 by the end of the year, according to the Centre for Retail Research.

Laura Ashley, Cath Kidston and Brighthouse have gone bust this year, while TM Lewin, Oasis and Warehouse stores have disappeared as they went online-only.

Debenhams today launches a fire sale of remaining stock as it reopens its shops after lockdown in England.

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