Scots firm steps in to rescue part of doomed Jane Norman

Retail stalwart Edinburgh Woollen Mill staged a partial rescue of collapsed fashion chain Jane Norman yesterday that will save hundreds of jobs and see the brand survive on the high street.

The Dumfriesshire-based firm, which has a track record of turning around failing businesses, agreed to buy 33 shops and all of the company's stock in a "pre-packaged" deal with administrators. It also secured rights to the Jane Norman name.

The fashion business, which employed 1,600 staff, shut its 94 stores and appointed administrators on Monday.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Budget department store TJ Hughes is understood to have given notice that it will appoint administrators this week, while chocolate company Thorntons and floor coverings specialist Carpetright both signalled cuts to their store estates yesterday.

EWM has proven resistant to the difficulties besetting other retailers. The firm, which can trace its roots back to 1946 and still operates out of the Borders town of Langholm, opened 21 outlets in its 2009-10 financial year.

It has about 200 high street stores and a further 80 aimed at tourists, plus 30 larger "destination stores". It also owns the Hector Russell kilt brand.

Chief executive Philip Day staged a 67.5 million management buy-out of EWM in 2002.

Since then the firm bought 77 stores from the administrators of textiles business Rosebys and merged them with the assets of furnishings business Ponden Mill to create the 150-strong Ponden Home chain, which is now run separately.

Last night, EWM remained in talks with Jane Norman's administrators, Zolfo Cooper, on the future of a further 28 stores.

Zolfo said there was "no interest" in an additional 33 Jane Norman shops, and they would close with the loss of 290 jobs.

It also said 106 positions at Jane Norman's London head office were being axed immediately. Some of the staff at the head office and at the Coventry warehouse are being kept on for the time being as the company prepares to wind down.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Administrator Alastair Beveridge, partner at Zolfo Cooper, said: "We are pleased to have ensured the survival of such a familiar presence on the high street, while securing the jobs of at least 396 Jane Norman employees.

"Unfortunately, the sale has resulted in job losses, which we appreciate is difficult news for those involved. We would like to thank them for their professionalism and support during what has been an uncertain time." Jane Norman has suffered "severe cashflow difficulties" after cash-strapped consumers put off non-essential purchases and consumer confidence plunged amid fears over the strength of the economic recovery.

Clothes have also become more expensive as raw materials such as cotton soared in price, and VAT rose from 17.5 per cent to 20 per cent in January.

The company, founded in London in 1952, tried unsuccessfully to find a buyer in recent weeks as it struggled with 140m of debt.

The chain is understood to have asked its landlords last week to defer rent as its quarterly payments deadline loomed.

Jane Norman's 95 concessions in Debenhams are continuing to trade while the administrator talks to the department store chain about a possible sale.

If Debenhams decides to buy the concessions, it could save a further 496 jobs.

Jane Norman had 16 shops north of the Border, but yesterday administrators would not say which had been saved and which would close.