Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Ponden Home enter administration with loss of 860 jobs

More than 860 people have immediately lost their jobs and a further 2,000 roles are at risk after the Edinburgh Woollen Mill chain and the homewares retailer Ponden Home called in administrators.

The two chains will continue to trade online, and in stores where possible, while administrators seek options for their future, including potential buyers.

The job losses mainly relate to the permanent closure of 56 Edinburgh Woollen Mill stores and eight Ponden Home stores and concessions.

The latest cuts come after a dismal week for retail workers in which more than 5,700 more jobs came under threat. Sainsbury’s said up to 3,500 jobs could go as it shut four in five of its Argos high street stores and closed fresh fish, meat and deli counters, while John Lewis is cutting 1,500 head office jobs and footwear brand Clarks could lose an estimated 700 jobs in stores.

Retailers had already been suffering from lacklustre sales amid heavy competition, led by online-only players such as Amazon, and rising costs including business rates and wages. The coronavirus pandemic has only added to their woes as stores were forced to close for three months over the summer and those in England now face a month of lockdown during the busiest trading period of the year.

Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Ponden Home are part of the entrepreneur Philip Day’s retail empire, which also owns the fashion chains Peacocks, Jaeger and Austin Reed. It employs more than 21,000 people. His business, called the Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group, issued a warning last month that it was on the brink of collapse.

Talks about a potential sale of Jaeger, Peacocks and Austin Reed are ongoing and those brands are not in administration.

Day is expected to hold on to Peacocks and has a big say in the future of all the chains as he holds a charge over certain assets of the group – making him first in line above other creditors to recover debts.

Tony Wright, joint administrator and partner at the advisory firm FRP, said: “Recent months have proven extremely challenging for many retailers, even those that were trading well before the pandemic, including the teams at Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Ponden Home.

“Regrettably, the impact of Covid-19 on the brands’ core customer base and tighter restrictions on trading mean that the current structure of the businesses is unsustainable and has resulted in redundancies. We are working with all affected members of staff to provide the appropriate support.”

Established in 1947, the Carlisle-based Edinburgh Woollen Mill has 384 stores across the UK and had 2,571 staff before Friday’s redundancies. Ponden Home is a homeware, curtains, bedding and furniture retailer with 73 stores and 329 staff.

Day also controls Bonmarché, the ailing 50-plus women’s fashion chain, via a separate investment vehicle which is also not part of the latest administration process.

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