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2012: The big stories

The year has seen high-profile administrations and rampant success – and everything in between. We look back at some of the major players over the past 12 months.


The year kicked off with the acquisition of floundering surfwear brand Hot Tuna by Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct; such takeovers by Ashley would become one of the biggest stories and most consistent themes of 2012. In March, the sportswear giant added fashion brands Firetrap and Fullcircle to its new premium lifestyle division, after rescuing them from administration, and in October bought 20 of rival JJB Sports’ stores, acquiring the brand, website and Slazenger Golf brand licence from administrator KPMG. In the same month, Sports Direct announced it would sell Firetrap product at less than the wholesale price from November 1, provoking threats from indies to pull orders for spring 13. Later in October, Sports Direct was rumoured to be the favourite to take over DKNY’s menswear licence after the luxury brand ended its contract with Indian textile firm S Kumars Nationwide. Ashley is now understood to be eyeing a stake in House of Fraser.


Premium department store Selfridges unveiled its Women’s Designer Galleries in February. The first stage in a three-part overhaul of its womenswear, the redevelopment was believed to have cost in excess of £10m. Elsewhere, high street favourite Peacocks (pictured) was sold to Edinburgh Woollen Mill (EWM) after weeks of negotiation with administrator KPMG. EWM assumed control of the Peacocks name, 388 stores and concessions, as well as its head office and distribution centre in Cardiff – but 244 stores faced closure.


Selfridges continued its cycle of renewal in March, when it announced plans to overhaul its men’s footwear department in London. The plans meant tripling the size of the existing 5,597 sq ft department and increasing the number of brands stocked from 165 to 265. The end of the month saw a new look for Drapers as it relaunched ahead of its 125th birthday celebrations in June.


In April, the cracks began to appear in British Fashion Council (BFC) chairman Harold Tillman’s business empire. First, the 160-year-old Tillman-owned brand Aquascutum fell into administration, putting 250 jobs at risk. He managed to save womenswear chain Jaeger from the fallout by selling it to private equity firm Better Capital, but the retailer had also been struggling after a significant drop in profits the year before. As if that wasn’t enough, Tillman’s Croydon department store, Allders, also entered administration, finally closing its doors in September after administrators failed to find a buyer.


After months of speculation among towns vying for a share of the £1.2m funds promised by local government minister Grant Shapps under the Portas Review, the first wave of Portas Pilots was announced. Towns including Bedford, Croydon and Margate were selected to be the first Portas Pilots, while in July it was announced that Ashford, Braintree, Loughborough and Rotherham were among the second batch of towns to be awarded funding.


British menswear took centre stage in June, when the British Fashion Council’s extended showcase London Collections: Men (Oliver Spencer, pictured) usurped Florence show Pitti Uomo in kicking off the season. Some womenswear designers, including Richard Nicoll, also debuted menswear. Meanwhile, Yves Saint Laurent changed its name to Saint Laurent, one of a raft of changes by creative director Hedi Slimane.


In July, Marks & Spencer revealed its worst trading results since 2008. Like-for-like general merchandising was down 6.8% for the three months to the end of June, and total UK sales dipped 0.9%. Chief executive Marc Bolland acknowledged that the retailer had lost market share in some parts of the business, but insisted it was “not about style”, largely blaming poor weather. UK retail was given a boost however when the London 2012 Olympics began on July 27, with Team GB’s athletes dressed in sportswear designed by Stella McCartney (pictured). 


After the success of the first London Collections: Men, the BFC announced that the second edition would run from January 7 to 9, and go head to head with well-established Pitti Uomo, which runs from January 8 to 11. Fourmarketing also bolstered its womenswear portfolio by acquiring seven brands from the administrators of Mirabel Edgedale.


On September 5, the BFC announced that after five years as chairman, Harold Tillman would hand over the reins to Natalie Massenet (pictured), founder of premium womenswear etailer Net-a-Porter. Meanwhile, at Paris Fashion Week Dior’s Raf Simons and Saint Laurent’s Hedi Slimane went head to head. The fashion press’s lukewarm response to Slimane’s collection resulted in a Twitter spat between the designer and New York Times critic Cathy Horyn.


The biggest career move of 2012 came in October, when after months of intense speculation it was announced that Kate Bostock would leave her role as executive director at Marks & Spencer to join Asos as executive director, product and trading. She will start at the etail giant in January next year.


Value chain Primark was victorious at the Drapers Fashion Awards in November, when founder Arthur Ryan (pictured) was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award and the business also claimed the Large Multiple Retailer of the Year accolade.


One of the biggest shocks of the year came in December, when Arcadia boss Sir Philip Green sold a 25% stake in Topshop and Topman to US private equity firm Leonard Green & Partners, in a deal that valued the business at £2bn.

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