Retail industry Jack Wills appoints advisers to assess all options – including sale
Troubled preppy fashion brand brings in KPMG amid reports it is facing a cash crunch
Preppy fashion brand Jack Wills has appointed advisers to look at all options for its future, including a potential sale, as it suffers from a downturn in trading.
The troubled brand has appointed advisory firm KPMG, which is known for its expertise on insolvency and restructuring, following reports that the retailer is facing a crash crunch.
A statement from the company said: “[KPMG has been appointed] to carry out a review of the business and explore future opportunities. In the meantime, management remains focused on its strategy of new product development, improving margins and driving cost efficiencies, which is already reaping benefits.”
One industry source said Jack Wills had been forced to look for buyers after its bank, HSBC, threatened to pull the plug while owner Bluegem Capital Partners, which bought the retailer in 2016, was unwilling to put in new funds.
The brand’s difficulties come after upmarket brands LK Bennett and Pretty Green both closed stores after being bought out of administration in recent months. Fashion group Arcadia, the owner of Topshop, has also closed stores and asked for rent cuts amid a slowdown in sales and rising costs.
A document circulated to potential buyers suggests Jack Wills could improve profits by closing its branch in Covent Garden in central London, where the lease expires in March next year, and moving out of the US, where it has three stores, according to trade journal Drapers, which first reported the appointment of KPMG.
Jack Wills was founded in 1999 with a single store in the posh Devon resort Salcombe and rapidly became a favourite of well-heeled students. It now has 10 standalone stores in the UK and about 100 other outlets, including franchise stores in the Middle East. It parted company with founder Peter Williams last summer after a fallout over strategy with Bluegem and brought in former Debenhams executive Suzanne Harlow.
In the year to 28 January 2018, the latest available results, the company slid to a pre-tax loss of more than £14m, before one-off costs, from a £2.2m profit the year before.
At the time, the company said it had reconfirmed a £25m revolving credit facility, £4m trade finance facility and £1.8m overdraft with HSBC until January 2021, while owner Bluegem Capital pledged to offer financial support for at least a year.
Since then Jack Wills has been rumoured to be running short of cash after burning through more than £20m injected by Bluegem.
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