Boost for high street as consortium buys Peacocks

There was a glimmer of good news for the embattled high street and the future of commercial premises this week with the announcement of the buyout of fashion chain Peacocks.

The collapsed chain has been bought out of administration, a move that includes transferring 2,000 jobs and 200 shops.

The number means the other half of the 400 trading at the time of the chain’s collapse last November will not reopen as Peacocks.

The group was previously owned by Edinburgh Woollen Mills (EWM).

The buyers are an international consortium, led by Peacocks’ former chief operating officer, Steve Simpson.

He hopes to reopen the stores once non-essential retailers are allowed out of lockdown.

EWM Group is a private investment group controlled by the Day family, which is owed money by Peacocks and is supporting the consortium.

A statement from the administrators, FRP, said the collapse of the chain was due to “the devastating effects of the Covid-19 lockdown” on the business.

The Peacocks’ management team hope that, with the support of their partners, suppliers and landlords, they will be able to reopen up to 200 stores.

The statement added the company hoped all 1,850 store staff, who are currently on furlough, will be able to return to work once stores reopen, along with more than 150 in head office and support.

A similar deal was set in place with EWM and Bonmarche brands, while another of EWM’s brands, Jaeger, was sold to Marks & Spencer, which intends to run it as an online-only business.

Peacocks had 400 stores going into the pandemic a year ago and announced a series of job losses and store closures as it struggled to manage under the various restrictions.

Industry analysts say a much leaner business will emerge from the crisis, with its footprint of around 400 stores halved under the deal.

The collapse of Peacocks had parallels with Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia chain, whose star outlet was Top Shop. Like Arcadia Group, Peacocks former owner, Edinburgh Woollen Mill, struggled with the accelerated shift to digital brought on by the pandemic. It was another sprawling retail empire which collapsed, with former rivals picking over the spoils.

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