LONDON — T.S. Eliot wrote that April was the cruelest month, but for his fellow Brits, it’s most certainly going to be January.
Next month will be the moment of truth for British high street retailers — when the winners and losers emerge, retail experts here said.
Nick Hood, a partner at the insolvency firm Begbies Traynor, made headlines here when he predicted 10 to 15 national and regional chains would go bust by mid-January.
In an interview, Hood stood by that forecast and said fashion chains “would not be exempt” from collapse. However, he declined to name names.
“Fashion retailers are inherently fragile businesses,” he said. “I wonder if the clothing ranges that retailers committed to six to nine months ago are right for a changed, more austere mood.”
With consumers cutting back in general, he said an oft-overlooked demographic — middle-class men and women who were living off savings, such as retired people — are putting the brakes on spending because they don’t want to appear extravagant or because they don’t have the cash.
“What we are living through is the financial equivalent of 9/11,” Hood said. “It is something that no one alive today has ever been through, and it will change consumers’ mood and behavior for years to come.”
According to preliminary figures from Experian FootFall, shopper numbers were down on average 8.7 percent for the weekend of Dec. 20 to 21 in the U.K., despite deep discounting across the board from luxury outlets to high street chains.
Hood said the most vulnerable retailers in the New Year will be those with high levels of borrowing — and chains that have expanded too quickly.
Already Britain has seen its share of retail casualties: Woolworths; The Officers Club, the discount men’s wear chain, and MFI, the mass market furniture company, all went bust in the last month. Whittard of Chelsea, the Baugur Group-owned retail chain selling tea, coffee and crockery, was on the brink of administration (the U.K. equivalent of bankruptcy), according to British press reports.
Earlier this year, brands including Biba, Hardy Amies, Ghost and Marchpole, the clothing manufacturer and owner of the Jean-Charles de Castelbajac label, all went into administration.
Ghost was rescued by the U.K. retail entrepreneur Touker Suleyman, and Hardy Amies was purchased by the private investment fund Fung Capital.
Harrods plans to remove the famous statue of Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed from the bottom of the Egyptian escalators and hand it back to Mohamed Al-Fayed. “We are very proud to have played our role in celebrating the lives of Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Al Fayed at Harrods and to have welcomed people from around the world to visit the memorial for the past 20 years,” said Michael Ward, Harrods managing director. “With the announcement of the new official memorial statue to Diana, Princess of Wales at Kensington Palace, we feel that the time is right to return this memorial to Mr. Al Fayed and for the public to be invited to pay their respects at the palace.” More on the news, with reporting by @loreleimarfil, at WWD.com. #wwdnews
@prada is introducing a new project at its men’s fall 2018 show this Sunday: “Prada Invites.” The fashion house invited four celebrated creative minds – @ronanaerwanbouroullec, Konstantin Grcic, @herzogdemeuron and @rem.koolhaas – to each create a unique item with its iconic nylon material. The designs will be unveiled on the runway show, which will take place at the company’s warehouse in Viale Ortles 25. #wwdfashion #mfwm (📷: @martinocarrera)
@kering_official is spinning off its stake in puma in an effort to focus on its luxury brands, the brand operator announced yesterday. “We are proud to have supported the turnaround of Puma, which now has unrivaled capabilities to take full advantage of the specific dynamics of its global markets and is poised to achieve substantial growth,” said François-Henri Pinault, Kering’s chief executive officer and chairman. Artémis will become a “long-term strategic shareholder” of Puma with a 29 percent stake. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
The fashion world mourns for celebrated street style photographer, Nabile Quenum, who died at age 32 in Paris.
Quenum, creator of the fashion blog “J’ai Perdu Ma Veste,” was a fashion week fixture, and regularly shot for New York magazine’s The Cut, among other outlets, and brands such as Louis Vuitton, Moncler and Adidas. He was also actively involved in the #NoFreePhotos initiative, which kicked off in the fall. Read more about Quenum in @kbsmoke's story on WWD.com. #wwdnews
@verwanggang and @maisonladuree have teamed up on a dessert collab called Vera Wang Pour Ladurée. The collection, which launched this week, features a specialty macaroon, as well as a wedding cake inspired by one of the designer’s gowns. “I could not imagine a more delicate or sophisticated creation to grace any couple’s celebration,” said Wang. #wwdfashion