Jack Wills ‘seeks to offload four stores’ as cost-cutting continues
Jack Wills is reportedly looking for prospects who will take over the leases of four of its underperforming stores as part of its move to cut costs under new CEO Suzanne Harlow.
The Sunday Times said that it's seeking new tenants to take on the leases of shops in Brighton, Chester and Worcester as it scouts cheaper premises in those cities, as well as aiming to sell its Cheltenham store’s lease. However the newspaper also said that the company claims it will not actually be pulling out of any of the cities.
It also quoted analysts saying it will have a tough job offloading the premises given that many of its retail peers are also struggling at the moment and would be unlikely to take on expensive leases when there's a strong chance they could find cheaper locations nearby.
Store leases have become a major issue for British fashion retailers in the last couple of years with many of them kicking against what they see as overpriced premises given the tough trading conditions on UK high streets at present. Many of them are seeing diminishing returns from their physical stores as their webstores continue to grow and take an ever bigger chunk of their sales.
Jack Wills is widely seen as having over-expanded in recent years with store numbers having grown fast since it was acquired by private equity company BlueGem in 2016.
It has struggled with underlying losses of late and in recent months, the company received a multi-million pound cash injection from its controlling shareholders as well as from an unnamed Italian investor. This year, its lenders were also reported to have called in advisors to negotiate revisions to Jack Wills' borrowing covenants, as well as looking at its wider financing needs.
But the company continues to launch initiatives that it believes will enhance the experience at its physical stores. In recent weeks, it teamed up with coffee shop operator Bear to open a café and bar in its flagship store on Kingly Street, London (which is sandwiched between Regent Street and Carnaby). The cafe is intended to give customers more reasons to visit and to boost dwell time.
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