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New Look: half a century in fast fashion

New look ss19 (3)

50 years in business

Tom Singh

Tom Singh

Founder Tom Singh changed the face of the UK high street when he started fast fashion retailer New Look with a £5,000 loan from his parents. The first store opened in Taunton in 1969 and he quickly ramped up the pace. By 2003, it had opened its 500th store, on London Oxford’s Street.

At the height of its powers, New Look was a giant of the high street, known for a particularly strong footwear offer. 

Despite its success, the retailer has been far from immune from the trials and tribulations of the UK high street. New Look announced plans to reduce its store estate and rent costs through a company voluntary arrangement in March last year, shedding nearly 1,000 jobs in the process. It closed 60 of its 593 stores, and revised rents and lease terms across a further 393.

New Look is retreating from China

New Look has retreated from China

The business has also taken an axe to its international store estate: it closed 120 stores in China and plans to do the same in Europe. New Look Poland, which operated 19 stores in the country, filed for bankruptcy in March this year. The French division followed in June. 

Despite its challenges, New Look will still be a presence on the high street – or whatever shape the future retail landscape takes – for the next half-century.

The retailer is showing green shoots in its turnaround plans. In June, it announced that operating profits were back in the black for the full year to 30 March. Operating profits hit £33.2m, reversing a loss of £35.7m the previous year. Like-for-like sales were down 1.6%, compared with a slump of 11.6% the previous year.

New Look has also slashed its long-term debt by 80% from £1.4bn to £350m after agreeing a debt-for-equity swap with a key group of financial stakeholders.

A new leadership team is in place to help steer New Look into the future. Singh has retired from the business and former House of Fraser chief executive Nigel Oddy has taken the reins as chief operating officer. New Look will be one to watch as it fights to regain ground.

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