As the British high street emerges from 2011 a shadow of its former self, Channel 4 News looks at the brands gone bust, or hanging on by a thread, at the end of a difficult year.
It has been a tough year in the world of retail. The latest government-commissioned report found that a third of high streets are failing, or as retail consultant Mary “Queen of Shops” Portas called it, “degenerating”. Its forecast for coming years is not much better either – by 2014, the government estimates that less than 40 per cent of retail spending will be on the high street.
A combination of the economic crisis in the eurozone, rising unemployment, and a cultural move towards shopping online rather than on foot, has added to retailers’ problems, who are trying desperately to lure back consumers.
In homage to the British high street, Channel 4 News looks at the brands that have gone bust, as well as those struggling to hold on to their place in the market – and in the hearts and minds of consumers.
Habitat: Thirty of Habitat’s UK stores were put into administration, leaving just three London-based shops that were bought by Home Retail Group. The creation of Terence Conran, who wanted a vehicle for his designs, Habitat said poor trading conditions were to blame, but acknowledged their products’ expense and poorly located stores contributed to their problems.
Oddbins: The quirky wine merchant that aimed to personalise wine shopping failed to beat off mass-market competition and went into administration in April after amassing debts of £20m. Around 400 jobs in total were put at risk, but 37 stores out of 128 stores were bought by the EFB Group and relaunched in October.
TJ Hughes: The Liverpool-based homes discount store, that has been trading for over 100 years, was put into administration in June after a difficult period. Two months later, the company announced that 22 stores would be closed, resulting in the loss of 1,062 jobs – over a quarter of the total workforce.
Thomas Cook: For 170 years, Thomas Cook has been taking British travellers on holiday, easing journeys from the UK to countries the world over. But in November, the travel operator said that the Arab Spring and the crisis in the eurozone all contributed to falling sales, and the company revealed a loss of £400m, as well as announcing the closure of 200 stores.
Thorntons: The much-loved chocolate retailer, which has been trading for almost a century, said in June that it plans to close up at least 120 stores over the next three years, with the possibility of a further 60 closures. The company said it would increase selling via supermarkets and try to be less dependent on seasonal events, such as Easter and Christmas.
Jane Norman: Founded in the 1950s, the upmarket clothing retailer went into administration in June citing “severe cash flow difficulties”. However, Edinburgh Woollen Mill bought 33 of its 94 stores in a deal that will allow the company to buy more stores in the future if trading picks up.
Borders: The UK branch of the company went bust back in 2009, and after putting up a tough fight, the US book and music retailer Borders Group finally announced defeat in July. The remaining 400 shops were liquidated in September, with the company blaming the rise of e-books and online shopping for the decline in sales.
Barratts: A familiar name on the high street, the shoe chain Barratts was placed in administration in December, putting 3,840 jobs at risk. The shoe retailer ran into trouble in 2009 when it reduced its number of shops from 380 to 220. Its administrators, Deloitte, said that “difficult economic conditions” were to blame.
HMV: ‘His Master’s Voice’ started trading in 1921 after the opening ceremony was attended by composer Sir Edward Elgar, confirming the brand’s place in the British high street. The struggling music retailer issued a profit warning in the first quarter, then sold its bookseller chain Waterstone’s, and finally this week announced it may sell its live music division to generate sales.