The Australian arm of the troubled luxury lingerie brand entered administration last month, with three of four remaining stores that were open at the time of administration closing quietly in recent weeks, it emerged Monday.
Rahul Goyal and David Winterbottom of Sydney-based advisory and investment firm KordaMentha were appointed administrators of Agent Provocateur Holdings on March 8 — less than a week after Agent Provocateur’s U.K. parent was placed in administration and almost immediately sold to London-based fashion and retail distribution company Four Holdings.
Shuttered last month were two concessions within Australian department store chain David Jones, which opened in February 2013, and a freestanding store for the L’Agent diffusion line in new Melbourne development St. Collins Lane, which opened in May 2016. The Westfield Sydney store, which opened in December 2014, is due to stay upon until May or until stock lasts.
Two other David Jones concessions opened in Brisbane and Perth in late 2013; however, at the time of writing neither KordaMentha spokesman Mike Smith nor David Jones was able to clarify when those concessions closed.
According to Smith, Agent Provocateur’s Australian business had sales of 5 million to 10 million Australian dollars, or $3.8 million or $7.6 million at current exchange, employed 20 people and was not carrying any bank debt, with the operation financed out of the U.K.
“This is a strategy by the new owners in the U.K. — the directors have asked KordaMentha to do the wind-down,” said Smith. “Australians will still be able to buy the stuff online, they’ll be directed to the British web site. We can’t speak for the new owners in England, but they’ve obviously got a plan that doesn’t involve Australia.”
In November, following revelations of accounting irregularities at the U.K. parent, Agent Provocateur’s former majority owner, the London-based 3i private equity group, revealed plans to shutter 30 percent of the company’s retail network.
Store closures were to primarily focus on the U.S. and Europe, with the footprint in Asia to be ramped up.
At the time Agent Provocateur boasted 111 stores in 29 countries.
Agent Provocateur joins a raft of store and brand closures in Australia, primarily from local operators, including high-profile names such as Collette Dinnigan and Easton Pearson. High rents, poor cash flow and dramatically increased competition since 2011 have been cited as key contributing factors.
However, the move seems unusual for an international brand at a time when international retailers continue to open in Australia at breakneck pace, with both fast-fashion chains and luxury brands reporting double-digit — in the case of H&M near triple-digit — sales growth down under.