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Debenhams’ jobs in danger in fallout from Arcadia collapse 

An Arcadia worker has today called on Sir Philip Green to sell his £100million superyacht to help staff amid the collapse of his retail empire – which came days after he was pictured casually walking through the streets of Monaco.

The group, which includes high street brands such as Topshop, Wallis and Dorothy Perkins, was plunged into administration last night, putting 13,000 jobs at risk.

It is also reportedly set to trigger the breakdown of a deal to save struggling Debenhams.

JD Sports could pull out of a rescue deal for the department store after the collapse of Arcadia, putting another 12,000 jobs at risk.

Today one customer assistant told the BBC that he thought Sir Philip, whose wife is the owner of the Arcadia group, should sell his £100million yacht to help staff.

Monaco resident Sir Philip was seen relaxing in the French principality, where he keeps the super yacht, over the weekend. He is planning a Christmas stay at a luxury Maldives resort, according to reports.

Speaking to Radio Four Today’s Programme, under the condition of anonymity, the Arcadia worker said: ‘We haven’t really been told what’s happening. All we know is we need to keep working as normal.

Sir Philip Green, pictured with wife Tina, saw his Arcadia empire collapse into administration last night

Monaco resident Sir Philip was seen relaxing in the French principality, where he keeps the super yacht, over the weekend

Monaco resident Sir Philip was seen relaxing in the French principality, where he keeps the super yacht, over the weekend

One Arcadia worker told the BBC they felt Sir Philip Green should sell his superyacht Lionheart (pictured: workers aboard the yacht when it was docked in Italy)  in order to help staff

One Arcadia worker told the BBC they felt Sir Philip Green should sell his superyacht Lionheart (pictured: workers aboard the yacht when it was docked in Italy)  in order to help staff

Timeline of key events in Sir Philip Green’s career – from payouts and takeovers to a pensions scandal and alleged sexual harassment 

Sir Philip Green has called in administrators at Deloitte to his Arcadia chain, which owns Topshop and Dorothy Perkins.

The businessman’s career has spanned massive highs, including a £1.2 billion payout in 2005, but has also been marred by a pensions scandal, and accusations of sexual harassment.

Here is a timeline of his rise and fall in the world of fashion.

Sir Philip Green sits Kate Moss with her sister Lottie at the Unique by Topshop autumn/winter 2014/15 collection at London Fashion Week

Sir Philip Green sits Kate Moss with her sister Lottie at the Unique by Topshop autumn/winter 2014/15 collection at London Fashion Week

1979: Sir Philip buys up the stock of 10 designer outlets that have failed. He dry-cleans the stock and puts it up for sale again in a shop in Mayfair.

1981-88: The aspiring businessman sets up several businesses. Like the Joan Collins Jeans Company, many fail to get off the ground, and several are liquidated. He also makes several successful deals during this time.

1988: Sir Philip is hired as the boss of Amber Day, the listed menswear group. He scores several victories in the role, and Amber Day’s share price rises. But he leaves in 1992 after the company misses on profits.

2000: Sir Philip buys FTSE 100-listed department store BHS for £200 million. He quickly gains plaudits for turning the struggling business around.

2002: Sir Philip buys Arcadia Group, the owner of Topshop, through family business Taveta.

2004: The businessman tries to take over high street giant Marks & Spencer but pulls out after getting very close to sealing a deal.

2005: Arcadia pays out a £1.3billion dividend, £1.2billion of which goes to Sir Philip’s wife Tina, who lives in Monaco so does not have to pay UK tax.

2007: Topshop launches a range of clothes designed by supermodel Kate Moss.

2010: Protesters gather outside Topshop in Oxford Street, alleging the businessman is avoiding income tax.

2015: Sir Philip sells BHS to Dominic Chappell for £1.

2016: BHS goes into administration, leaving a pension deficit of £571 million, and costing 11,000 people their jobs. 

MPs pass a motion to remove Sir Philip’s knighthood over the pensions scandal. He later pays £363million into the scheme.

2018: The Telegraph reports that staff are accusing an unnamed businessman of sexual harassment and racial abuse. Sir Philip is later identified by an MP as the businessman in question.

2020: Covid-19 hits the high street. Arcadia closes 444 stores and furloughs 9,294 employees.

On November 30, administrators Deloitte announce the Arcadia retail empire has fallen into administration with 13,000 jobs at risk.

‘I have a pension but I’m not sure what’s going to happen to it. I think we may be out of a job.

‘I think he should sell his yacht and take money out of his own pocket to help his staff, to make sure people aren’t going to be without money for Christmas.’

Meanwhile, Sir Ian Chesire, former chairman of Debenhams, and current chairman of Barclays, said he felt ‘desperately sorry’ for those whose jobs were at risk. 

But he told BBC Radio Four he was ‘not surprised’ that news of Arcadia’s collapse could have a knock on impact on Debenhams.

He said: ‘They’ve both dealt with the same problem of “how fast can you change?” particularly when you are stuck with long leases and costs and the internet. They were caught in a straight jacket.

‘The real problem now is that you have got to be so much faster and you have got have so much more online if you are going to survive the online pressures.’

It comes as reports suggest the future of Debenhams is hanging in the balance with JD Sports set to pull the plug on a rescue deal amid the collapse of the Arcadia retail group.

The JD Sports group were said to be closing in on a deal to buy the department store chain, which is in administration.

But the collapse of Arcadia has now threatened to derail the rescue of Debenhams, leaving the fate of 25,000 jobs in the balance.

Sir Philip Green’s empire owns Topshop, Wallis and Dorothy Perkins – and Arcadia and its eight brands collapsed into administration last night.

The group, which employs 13,000 people, is the biggest single concession in Debenhams stores and accounts for about £75million in sales.

Arcadia’s collapse could take the department store with it, as it could now be wound down, risking another 12,000 jobs. 

JD Sports, which entered exclusive talks to rescue Debenhams last week, was reconsidering its position as Arcadia’s collapse would dent the department stores’ finances. 

It is understood that sales of Arcadia brands make up around 5 per cent of Debenhams’ total revenues.

 

Investors flocked to buy JD stock yesterday, pushing its shares up 5.8 per cent, or 43p, to 776.2p, as they believe the takeover of such a distressed chain is risky.

It followed a day of drama which saw Arcadia reject an offer for a £50million rescue loan from Green’s bitter rival Mike Ashley, who runs House of Fraser and Sports Direct. 

Ashley is expected to face off against online giant Boohoo to buy Arcadia’s bombed-out brands, with Topshop likely to garner the highest price tag.

Retail experts yesterday said Green and his wife Tina had failed to invest enough in the likes of Outfit, Burton and Miss Selfridge, or build a successful online business like rivals Zara, H&M and Boohoo.

A row also erupted yesterday over the company’s pension scheme after it emerged that there may be a £200million to £250million black hole. 

The shortfall could result in 10,000 pensioners having their payouts cut by a fifth.

In 2017, Green had to put £363million into the pension scheme for BHS workers following calls for him to be stripped of his knighthood for ‘services to the retail industry’.

Former City Minister Lord Myners said Green was ‘an asset stripper’: ‘He doesn’t invest in his business, he milks them.’

Ian Grabiner, Arcadia’s boss, said: ‘In the face of the most difficult trading conditions we have ever experienced, the obstacles we encountered were far too severe.’

There will be no immediate job losses and stores will still trade. 

The Arcadia group, which employs 13,000 people, is the biggest single concession in Debenhams (pictured) stores and accounts for about £75million in sales

The Arcadia group, which employs 13,000 people, is the biggest single concession in Debenhams (pictured) stores and accounts for about £75million in sales

The high street giant, which includes the Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Burton brands, has hired administrators from Deloitte after the coronavirus pandemic 'severely impacted' sales across its brands

The high street giant, which includes the Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Burton brands, has hired administrators from Deloitte after the coronavirus pandemic ‘severely impacted’ sales across its brands

Sir Philip, 68, acquired Arcadia for £850million in 2002. Though his chief executive blamed the pandemic for the high street giant’s demise, experts have pointed out that Arcadia has struggled to respond to the increased competition from low-cost rivals like Primark, and online disrupters such as ASOS and Boohoo.

Critics have also accused Sir Philip, who has been mired in a series of controversies in recent years, of not investing enough in the businesses to get them in shape to deal with the new competition in retail.

Arcadia is the latest retailer to have been hammered by store closures during the pandemic, with rivals including Debenhams, Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group and Oasis Warehouse all sliding into insolvency since March.

The group, which runs 444 stores in the UK and 22 overseas, said 9,294 employees are currently on furlough. No redundancies are being announced yet as a result of the appointment and stores will continue to trade. 

Administrators said they will be ‘assessing all options available’, which could see brands sold off in separate rescue deals.

Arcadia will continue to honour all online orders made over the Black Friday weekend and will continue to operate all of its current sales channels, according to a press release.

Retail trade union Usdaw said it will seek an urgent meeting with Arcadia’s administrators in an attempt to save jobs and ensure staff are treated fairly as Sir Philip’s retail empire goes bust.

Business secretary Alok Sharma said he would be keeping a ‘very close eye’ on the administrators’ report on director conduct, and pledged the Government would support the affected workers. 

In a statement, Arcadia chief executive Ian Grabiner said: ‘In the face of the most difficult trading conditions we have ever experienced, the obstacles we encountered were far too severe.’

Sir Philip's Arcadia is the latest retailer to have been hammered by store closures during the pandemic, with rivals including Debenhams, Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group and Oasis Warehouse all sliding into insolvency since March

Sir Philip’s Arcadia is the latest retailer to have been hammered by store closures during the pandemic, with rivals including Debenhams, Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group and Oasis Warehouse all sliding into insolvency since March 

The group, which runs 444 stores in the UK and 22 overseas, said 9,294 employees are currently on furlough. No redundancies are being announced yet as a result of the appointment and stores will continue to trade

The group, which runs 444 stores in the UK and 22 overseas, said 9,294 employees are currently on furlough. No redundancies are being announced yet as a result of the appointment and stores will continue to trade

He added: ‘This is an incredibly sad day for all of our colleagues as well as our suppliers and our many other stakeholders. Our stores will remain open or reopen when permitted under the Government Covid-19 restrictions, our online platforms will be fully operational and supplies to all of our partners will continue.’

Matt Smith, joint administrator at Deloitte, said: ‘We will now work with the existing management team and broader stakeholders to assess all options available for the future of the group’s businesses.

‘It is our intention to continue to trade all of the brands and we look forward to welcoming customers back into stores when many of them are allowed to reopen. We will be rapidly seeking expressions of interest and expect to identify one or more buyers to ensure the future success of the businesses.’    

Usdaw national officer Dave Gill said: ‘Now that Arcadia is in administration it is crucial that the voice of staff is heard over the future of the business and that is best done through their trade union.

‘We are seeking urgent meetings and need assurances on what efforts are being made to save jobs, the plan for stores to continue trading and the funding of the pension scheme. In the meantime we are providing our members with the support and advice they need at this very difficult time.

‘Over 200,000 retail job losses and 20,000 store closures this year are absolutely devastating and lay bare the scale of the challenge the industry faces. Each one of those job losses is a personal tragedy for the individual worker and store closures are scarring our high streets and communities.

‘What retail needs is a joined up strategy of unions, employers and Government working together to develop a recovery plan. Usdaw has long called for an industrial strategy for retail, as part of our ‘Save our Shops’ campaign, to help a sector that was already struggling before the coronavirus emergency. 

‘Retail is crucial to our town and city centres, it employs around three million people across the UK. The Government must take this seriously; we need a recovery plan to get the industry back on its feet.’  

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