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Austin Reed poised for high street revival

Austin Reed is to return to the high street with a bold new revival plan to open 50 stores by early 2018.

Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group bought the Austin Reed brand out of administration in May of this year and will invest around £100m into relaunching it in its first three years.

Austin Reed relaunched online in September and the group is now preparing to open its first new stores towards the end of next year, targeting 50 openings in three years. The firm said it is close to completing a deal on a new flagship store in central London.

The group also acquired the Country Casuals and Viyella brands, and will relaunch them in existing Edinburgh Woollen Mill stores early next year.

It comes as Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group revealed sales rose 2.4% to £576.3m, and profit before tax and exceptional items also rose by 2.4% to £90.9m for the 12 months to 28 February, compared with 2014/15.

Group commercial director Steve Simpson said the firm’s focus is on providing quality, exceptional value for money and positive customer service has helped it to grow despite increased competition.

“With the addition of Austin Reed, which we acquired earlier this year, as well as Country Casuals and Viyella, we aim to continue this organic growth, while always being ready to respond to other opportunities as they arise,” he said.

The group now operates 981 standalone stores across the UK, as well as numerous concessions and ecommerce sites.

Drapers reported in September that Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group was readying a relaunch of Austin Reed by reinstating its website and installing Charles Lassman to lead new product development.

The group bought the Austin Reed name, its stock and five concessions in Boundary Mill Stores at the end of May through a new firm called AR Operations, after the Austin Reed Group went into administration in April this year.

Drapers exclusively revealed that Austin Reed Group was bought by Alteri Investors on 15 April, just over a year after the retailer entered into a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) and closed more than 30 underperforming stores.

AlixPartners was appointed as administrator to the Austin Reed Group 11 days later. The firm cited cash flow problems arising from “challenging retail market conditions”.



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