Hundreds of jobs lost as Watt Brothers collapses into administration

Almost 230 of Watt Brothers 306 employees have been made redundant with immediate effect. Picture: Michael Gillen
Almost 230 of Watt Brothers 306 employees have been made redundant with immediate effect. Picture: Michael Gillen
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Hundreds of staff have been made redundant as Glasgow retailer Watt Brothers has collapsed into administration.

The fourth-generation family owned business, which operates a chain of 11 department stores across central Scotland, including its iconic store on Sauchiehall Street, called in administrators at KPMG after suffering continued trading losses.

KPMG said it had "no other option" but to make 229 of Watt Brothers’ 306 employees redundant with immediate effect, as it attempts to secure a buyer for the business and its assets.

It added that Watt Brothers’ turnover had increased year on year, peaking at approximately £24 million in 2018, however, in line with many retailers, this has not translated into profit.

Watt Brothers suffered from an increased strain on costs margins and rising competition from online and discount retailers, which resulted in the group generating a loss in 2018.

The 104-year-old retailer embarked on a process to secure new investment as trading losses continued in 2019, but this was unsuccessful.

READ MORE: Future of Watt Brothers department store chain in doubt

Watt Brothers, which sells a range of well-known branded products across departments including fashion, electrical, homeware, jewellery, outdoor pursuits, gifts, health and beauty, will continue to trade from its flagship store in Glasgow where a stock clearance event will begin tomorrow.

Roots in the 1800s

The business traces its roots back to the late 1800s when Allan Watt, a Lanarkshire farmer’s son and great-grandfather of the current owner William Watt, set up a small drapery shop to augment the family’s income which was beginning to drop.

It was incorporated in 1915, the same year it moved into its flagship store on the corner of Sauchiehall Street and Hope Street.

Blair Nimmo, joint administrator and UK head of restructuring at KPMG, said: "Despite the director's tireless efforts to increase margins, cut costs and recapitalise the business, Watt Brothers continued to incur trading losses as a result of the well-publicised challenges being experienced across the retail sector.

"Ultimately this has led to the unfortunate demise of a well-known and highly-regarded business.

"We will be holding a stock clearance event, and are grateful to the remaining staff for their efforts and assistance at this difficult time.

"We are working closely with Skills Development Scotland, via their PACE team, and JobCentre Plus to support the staff who have been made redundant."

He added: "We would encourage any party who has an interest in acquiring the business and its assets to contact us as soon as possible.”