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Thousands of jobs saved in Peacocks buyout

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Fashion retailer Peacocks has been saved from collapse after it was bought out of administration by an international consortium, led by its former chief operating officer.

The retailer was part of the Edinburgh Woolen Mills (EWM) retail family, but dropped into administration in November last year. 

The buyout means that half of the retailer’s stores will reopen, saving thousands of jobs in the process.

Shutting up shop

Peacocks was part of the EWM group, owned by Philip Day, but had been struggling even before the pandemic struck.

When it collapsed in November, it had 400 shops in operation.

However, thanks to the buyout ‒ which is being steered by Steve Simpson, the retailer’s former chief operating officer ‒ there are plans to reopen 200 of those stores, including the transfer of 2,000 jobs.

The new management team hopes the stores can reopen from 12 April when all non-essential retail stores are allowed to trade again as part of the lockdown easing measures.

A statement from FRP, the firm’s administrators, the collapse was due to the “devastating” impact of the initial Covid-19 lockdown. It added that it was hoped all 1,850 store staff will be able to return to work, along with 150 head office and support staff, thanks to the deal.

Other parts of the EWM stable, like Bonmarche, have already been sold to a vehicle headed by Simpson.

Going lean

Susannah Street, analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, suggested that Peacocks would be a “much leaner beast” as a result of the buyout, as it could shed the “excess weight of underperforming outlets”. However, she noted that getting its online offering in better shape was crucial, since its rivals are already performing well here.

Street added: “Like Arcadia Group, Peacocks former owner, Edinburgh Woollen Mill, struggled with the accelerated shift to digital brought on by the pandemic.It was another sprawling retail empire which collapsed, with former rivals picking over the spoils. Billionaire Philip Day is one more powerful tycoon who appears to be making an exit from the UK retail scene.

“It’s a reminder that not keeping up with shoppers’ shifting tastes and habits, can seriously weaken once powerful brands and businesses.”

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