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Next’s Cath Kidston Deal Drives Up UK Retail Job Drain

Job cuts, takeovers, and wheeling and dealing are shifting Britain’s retail landscape.

Cath Kidston will soon have a new owner in fast-fashion company Next Plc, which will pay 8.5 million pounds ($10.5 million) to acquire the fashion and homewares nameplate that was put up for sale in June. The deal excludes Cath Kidston’s four stores, which means workers there will likely join the unemployment line and add to the more than 16,000 job losses that plagued the sector last year.

Cath Kidston’s 2020 bankruptcy put the brand into the hands of Private Equity Asia but continuing troubles led Hilco Capital to take over the retailer last year, though the failing company on Tuesday said it was planning to bring in administrators, according to Bloomberg.

Next has gained a reputation for scooping up failing brands for a song. The Asos rival recently acquired Joules, another down-on-its-luck banner, while’s challenges made the online furniture retailer attractive to the deal-hungry company.

Retail jobs are a cause for concern across the pond, where 16,416 have disappeared for the first eight weeks of 2023, according to the Centre for Retail Research’s (CRR) data through Feb. 28. This comes after a British Retail Consortium study earlier this month said fourth-quarter retail jobs fell to their lowest average in “over a decade,” with the tally for the quarter totaling 3.12 million, or 14,000 off from a year earlier. Newer job roles focus on digital and warehousing instead of the store, once the traditional retail employment growth engine.

But the report focuses on retailers with at least 10 stores, meaning the number of job losses and store closures could be much higher.

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British retail lost 151,474 jobs and closed 17,145 stores for all of 2022, according to the CRR’s report.

High-street fixture New Look, for one, has halved its store count to 400 from 800 just a few years ago. The fast-fashion retailer closed six U.K. stores in January and February and reports suggest it’s laying off some headquarters staff and cutting 503 warehouse workers.

New Look told Drapers that it has “accelerated our ecommerce-business and reduced our store estate.” As part of its restructuring, the company is making changes to its operating model and structures at its “Weymouth and London support centres,” it said, and will soon consult affected staff.

Job losses also hit The Restory last month. The luxury repair firm, which powers the Farfetch Fix platform where shoppers can get their premium shoes, bags and leather goods mended and restored, is now in administration, according to Drapers.

The Restory co-founders Vanessa Jacobs, Emily Rea and Thaís Cipolletta Ferreira Alves left their jobs last month and terminated the entire staff. Their LinkedIn post announced the shakeup said new shareholders The Cobblers, a U.S. rival, and Versaille Properties LLC were put in charge of liquidating the company, which once served high-end retailers such as Selfridges and Browns.

Over at Frasers Group, Michael Ashley’s company is getting deeper into the shopping mall business. It’s paying more than $100 million total to buy the 900,000-square-foot The Mall in Luton, home to a Sports Direct store, and Dundee’s Overgate Centre.

Frasers got into the mall business when it acquired Scotland’s Berryden Retail park in Aberdeen. It followed with deals for Robin Retail Park in British town of Wigan and Northern Ireland’s Boucher Shopping Park.

Frasers has also acquired brands such as Saville Row tailor Gieves Hawkes. It took over 14 brands from JD Sports, though one of those, men’s wear label Prevu Studio founded by soccer star Jake Hall, is now bankrupt, according to Drapers. Woodhouse Clothing, part of Clothingsites, another of JD Sports’ former brands, is also set to shut down after 48 hours, Drapers reported.

Frasers owns House of Fraser, Jack Wills, Studio Retail, Evans Cycle and Agent Provocateur. Recently bankrupt Sneakerboy and Missguided also joined the company’s portfolio. The company holds a 95 percent stake in Australian close-out platform

Marks & Spencer Has John Lewis in its Sights

Marks & Spencer Group Plc wants to sell more third-party brands and go head-to-head with rival John Lewis Partnership.

John Lewis Partnership is looking to cut costs after it reported a loss before taxes of 234 million pound ($284.9 million), on a 2 percent decline in total sales to 12.25 billion pounds ($14.91 billion) for the year ended Jan. 28.

Merchandising is key to success for both mass merchants.

M&S, which began selling third-party brands online two years ago, could grow those labels from 60 to 200, The Telegraph reported. The retailer offers Joules’ fashion as well as Nobody’s Child. Homewares and beauty are categories ripe for third-party growth. Nishi Mahajan, who was hired away from Amazon’s fashion business last month, is reportedly behind the third-party offensive.

On the other hand, restructuring expert Pippa Wicks left John Lewis last month after nearly three years in the role. The retailer named restructuring guru and board members Nish Kankiwala as its first CEO.