International investors save Peacocks – 200 stores reopening

Lydia Petropoulou looks at the rescue of the famous chain, Peacocks, by a team of international investors.

The retail chain owned by Philip Day Edinburgh Woollen Mill (EWM) group, was rescued, in a sense, five months after falling into administration due to the coronavirus pandemic. The buyer is a senior executive, Steve Simpson, supported by a team of international investors at Purepay Retail. They will reopen at least 200 out of the 400 shops of the chain. Accordingly, 2,000 jobs will be saved and 1,850 store staff, currently on furlough, will return to their jobs when the stores reopen. From those, more than 150 will be responsible for the maintenance of head office and support.

The Peacocks chain was founded in 1884, when Albert Frank Peacock introduced Peacock’s Penny Bazaar. It moved to Cardiff in 1940. Peacock is among the chains devastated by the coronavirus pandemic and it still owes money to EWM group. 21,000 jobs were put at risk during the last seven months.

As Steve Simpson admitted: “The past seven months had been extremely difficult.” He thought it would be impossible for the trading to continue normally during the second outbreak of Covid-19. Now, the Peacock chain hopes that with all the support of their buyers, suppliers, and partners, they will be able to have at least half of the stores opened.

The EWM group is based in Scotland and it first acquired Peacock in 2012. At that time, the chain fell into administration for the first time and the group saved 388 shops. Other stores also belonged to the same group, such as Jacques Vert, Eastex, Austin Read, Windsmoor and Jaeger. A similar deal was made with Jaeger, which was bought by Marks and Spencer and operated only online. This resulted in 233 employees being cut.

Regarding Peacocks, analyst Susannah Streeter at stockbrokers Hargreaves Lansdown said: “Peacocks will be a much leaner beast emerging from the crisis, with its footprint of around 400 stores halved under the deal.” The same analyst sees the benefit in the closure of underperforming stores and the improvement of the chain’s image in online merchandise. As the company’s rivals are already very competitive in this sense, it is very important for Peacocks to work on it, as well.

Many famous fashion chains and their owners found it difficult to adapt to the new digital shopping era, which emerged during the pandemic. The same happened to Philip Green’s Arcadia chain, owner of the famous Topshop, which now belongs to ASOS. Other giants, such as Debenhams, also collapsed to administration in November.

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