Edinburgh Woollen Mill brand rescued - but too late for hundreds of shopworkers

The Edinburgh Woollen Mill has now reopened in Ipswich Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The Edinburgh Woollen Mill in Ipswich which was earmarked for closure last year Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Administrators drafted in following the collapse of Edinburgh Woollen Mill have secured a rescue deal for the brand.

The high street knitwear chain crashed into administration last year, but owner Philip Day was said to have lined up a series of international investors to inject cash into the business to enable it to continue trading. 

Now joint administrators Tony Wright and Alastair Massey, partners at business advisory firm FRP, have completed a sale of Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Duvetco to Purepay Retail Ltd, which is back by an international investor consortium.

The pair were appointed for both companies on November 5, 2020, and offered the businesses up for sale.

Purepay, a secured creditor to the businesses, has acquired all the remaining stock, as well as the head office site and distribution centre in Carlisle.

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It will operate 246 stores under licence from across both brands and the stores and their 1,347 store staff will transfer to the new buyer, along with all 72 head office and 34 distribution staff.

But the remaining 85 Edinburgh Woollen Mill stores and 34 Ponden Home stores will remain permanently closed, with the loss of 358 jobs and 127 jobs respectively. All workers at the stores have been made redundant, the administrators said.

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The Ipswich Edinburgh Woollen Mill store has already closed but the fate of other outlets such as in Woodbridge, Thetford and Colchester is unclear. 

Mr Wright said: “We have extensively marketed these businesses for sale and this transaction provides the best chance to save stores and jobs, but also meet our own statutory obligations to creditors.

“However, with such little visibility on future trading conditions in UK retail, we regret that not all of Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Ponden Home could be rescued.

"This has resulted in a significant number of redundancies at a particularly challenging time of year and period of economic uncertainty. We have a team working hard to support all those affected as we help make applications for redundancy payments.”

The administrators confirmed that Jaeger Retail  and Peacocks Stores - also part of Mr Day's retail empire - remain in administration.

Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group (EWM) was one of a string of retailers to undergo major restructuring during the coronavirus crisis when it called in administrators last year.

High street shops have come under huge pressure with changing shopping habits as consumers turn more and more to online shopping and enforced closures due to the deepening health crisis.

Cath Kidston, Laura Ashley and Oasis were also among the retailers which entered administration last year.

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