McPherson rides to rescue of Ethel Austin chain for the second time

SCOTTISH retail specialist Elaine McPherson is to buy part of the Ethel Austin clothing chain out of administration for the second time, it emerged last night.

Ethel Austin and sister chain Au Naturale fell into the hands of administrators in February, putting 3,700 jobs at risk.

Under the deal, 90 of the Ethel Austin stores will be sold to Life & Style Retail, a new firm set up by McPherson.

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The move comes after 700 job cuts at Ethel Austin and Au Naturale were announced last month. Geoff Bouchier, joint administrator at insolvency firm MCR, said: "This is positive news for the 1,183 employees who were facing an uncertain future.

"We are pleased with the result and believe this is a suitable outcome, considering the tough market and the lasting financial pressures from the recession."

But administrators added that no purchaser had come forward to buy any of the remaining 41 Ethel Austin stores, which are scheduled to close over the course of the next fortnight.

MCR said Au Naturale was unaffected by the deal, "although negotiations continue and the administrators expect to be in a position to conclude a sale shortly".

McPherson – who was formerly chief executive and joint owner of MK One – had previously bought Ethel Austin out of administration in May 2008.

Shortly after, she emerged as the buyer of 46 Au Naturale stores, almost all of them in Scotland, which had also been placed into administration.

Ethel Austin was founded by its namesake and her husband, George, in their Liverpool council house in 1934.