By Rupert Steiner
Retailers Next, Boohoo, Marks and Spencer and ASOS are all reportedly eyeing parts of U.K. billionaire Philip Green’s fallen Arcadia empire , which has collapsed into administration after the one-time “King of the High Street” lost his crown.
The privately owned business, which owns brands including Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge, Wallis, Burton, and the Topshop fashion chain, is a major retail player, with 444 shops including 22 internationally. It opened a flagship store on New York’s Fifth Avenue in 2014, which has since closed.
Deloitte has been appointed administrator and plans to keep the stores trading for now, but 13,000 jobs are at risk.
Retailers around the world have been fighting for survival, as people stay at home to protect themselves from catching COVID-19. Many have also been forced to shut their doors by governments limiting the number of places that citizens can mix.
Already this year, fashion chain J.Crew has filed for bankruptcy in the U.S., while Neiman Marcus filed for chapter 11, a form of bankruptcy, along with JC Penney and Brooks Brothers.
A large number of fashion chains and stores groups faced with the high costs of running stores in malls and on high streets had been struggling before the pandemic, and faced fierce competition from online-only rivals like Amazon /zigman2/quotes/210331248/composite AMZN -0.45% .
The administration of Arcadia comes on a dark day for U.K. retail, as British department store chain Debenhams was placed into liquidation on Tuesday after failing to find a buyer. It had collapsed into administration earlier this year and FRP Advisory had been appointed administrator.
Debenhams employs 12,000 workers in 124 stores. This means 25,000 U.K. jobs have been placed at risk over a 24-hour period.
In a statement, Ian Grabiner, Arcadia Chief Executive, said: “This is an incredibly sad day for all of our colleagues, as well as our suppliers and our many other stakeholders. In the face of the most difficult trading conditions we have ever experienced, the obstacles we encountered were far too severe. Our priority now is to work with the administrators to deliver the best possible outcome for all our stakeholders, in particular our hardworking employees.”
Deloitte said it was “assessing all options available” for Arcadia. A host of rival retail groups will be looking at parts of Arcadia to decide whether they might be a good fit. Analysts at broker Shore Capital said Boohoo /zigman2/quotes/205655689/delayed UK:BOO -1.79% had raised shareholder funds for acquisitions earlier in the year and would appear to be “in the driving seat as a potential acquirer”. Arcadia’s biggest rivals are Next /zigman2/quotes/200704121/delayed UK:NXT -0.12% , Marks & Spencer /zigman2/quotes/206225481/delayed UK:MKS +1.85% , and ASOS /zigman2/quotes/209092221/delayed UK:ASC -1.30% .
The administration of Arcadia will be a blow to Green, who is one of Britain’s most controversial tycoons , having been criticized over the amount of tax paid, and accused of sexist and racist behavior, all of which he has denied.