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Edinburgh Woollen Mill to roll out department store concept

Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group (EWM) is seeking to roll out its new department store concept to more locations across the UK, Drapers has learned.

Drapers previously revealed that the group, which comprises Peacocks, Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Austin Reed, CC, Jane Norman and Ponden Home Interiors, is readying the launch of Days Department Store in the former BHS unit in Carmarthen, South Wales, in April.

It is now recruiting for a general manager for a second department store, on the Kingston Court Retail Park in Newcastle. The retail park, which is north of the city, is also home to Marks & Spencer and Next.

The job advert states: “This department store will feature the brands of one of the fastest-growing retail groups in the UK.”

It comes as rumours circulate about EWM’s plans to acquire premium women’s and men’s wear brand Jaeger, and value footwear retailer Brantano.

Jaeger is working with AlixPartners and owner Better Capital to evaluate interest from prospective strategic partners or to find a buyer, while Brantano last week filed notice of intent to appoint administrators.

Reports of EWM’s interest has prompted speculation that the group could be gathering a portfolio of complementary labels to sit alongside Austin Reed and CC, which it acquired out of administration in May last year.

One industry insider suggested EWM could look to snap up some of the labels currently under the Style Group Brands (formerly Jacques Vert Group) umbrella, which include Jacques Vert, Precis, Windsmoor, Eastex and Dash.

“[EWM] has Austin Reed as the tailoring brand and CC for the older woman. If it could pick up Jaeger as a premium brand and something like Dash as a casualwear brand, it would have a portfolio of complementary labels,” said the source. “It would be akin to what Aurora Group did 15 years ago, but a bit more sensible.”

Independent retail analyst Richard Hyman said he doubted EWM chief executive and owner Philip Day would invest further into any newly acquired brands to restore them to their full potential – rather he would build a “house of labels”.

Austin Reed relaunched online last September. In November, EWM set out plans to open new Austin Reed stores towards the end of this year, targeting a total of around 50 stores over three years. It plans to spend £100m relaunching the brand in the first three years.

As part of the deal, EWM acquired five Austin Reed concessions in Boundary Mill Stores, which continue to trade. One source told Drapers the group has started buying for Austin Reed in a “modest way” for autumn 17, but it is not yet clear where that stock will be going.

Drapers has contacted EWM and Jaeger for comment.

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