Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Ponden Home and Bonmarché rescue deal agreed

Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Ponden Home interiors chain and value retailer, Bonmarché, have been saved from closure by a rescue deal that sees almost 2,000 staff being retained, but up to 260 stores across the chains could still close.

Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Ponden Home, both part of the Philip Day retail conglomerate, were pushed over the edge into administration in November 2020, with 866 staff made redundant immediately.

The wider Edinburgh Woollen Mill group, which has several brands under its umbrella, was not part of the administration.

The buyout has been made by a consortium of international investors who will refund the business, which will continue to be led by the existing management team. It is thought that Mr Day will effectively lend the group the money to buy the businesses, to be repaid over a number of years.

The new owners intend to operate the business from 246 stores across both the Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Ponden Home brands, retaining 1,453 staff in those stores, the head office and distribution centres in Carlisle.

85 Edinburgh Woollen Mill and 34 Ponden Home stores have been closed permanently, with the loss of 485 jobs.

Wakefield-based Bonmarché will retain 72 of its stores and 531 staff including head office and distribution centre staff. The major of its 148 stores are under review with staff on furlough.

Administrator Tony Wright, partner at FRP, which is representing Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Ponden Home commented: “We regret that not all of Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Ponden Home could be rescued. This has resulted in a significant number of redundancies at a particularly challenging time of year and period of economic uncertainty.”

“Lockdowns have proved hugely damaging for mid-range fashion chains like Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Bonmarché whose traditional customer base has not adapted so quickly to online shopping as younger shoppers,” said Susannah Streeter, analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

“The backers of this rescue deal clearly believe there is pent-up demand amongst core customers which will be released once the doors are flung open once more.”

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