The collapse of York indie Coggles has left the fashion industry reeling this week, with many fearing it is just the tip of the iceberg.
The premium retailer appointed Begbies Traynor as administrator on May 8 after investment talks fell through. Half of its 60-strong workforce have already been made redundant.
In a statement, Coggles said the weak economic climate had made trading “the most difficult the business has experienced since being founded in 1974”.
Chief executive Mark Bage added: “This recession has hit our sector the hardest – it has effectively been a triple-dip recession.”
Fellow indies were astounded by the news. Deryane Tadd, owner of St Albans womenswear indie The Dressing Room, called Coggles’ demise a “huge shame”.
“It’s a real loss for the indie sector,” she said. “It’s a really strong business and was trying to do something different and move with the times. I guess it’s a lesson of growing at your own pace and not running before you can walk.”
Pamela Shiffer, owner of the eponymous womenswear indie in Primrose Hill, north London, described Coggles as a “trailblazer”.
“It just goes to show there is nothing safe at the moment. This was a business that was established and had been on the up for quite a few years.”
Jo Davies, owner of premium womenswear indie Black White Denim, said: “The ramifications will be immense. All the suppliers who have stock in there will suffer and as a result will tighten terms, which is the last thing we need.”
One brand owner said he and others expected to be “burnt” by Coggles’ collapse, noting he was owed a “substantial” sum of money. “I don’t think there is a single person in Coggles’ supply chain that hasn’t been hurt by it going into administration,” he added.
Nick Hood, business risk analyst at financial research firm Company Watch, said: “The seeds of its failure were sown a long time ago.”
Hood added that in the 18 months to January 31, 2012 the business had made a £1.55m net loss, taking its debts to nearly £3m. This was after receiving £3m of investment from Pentland in 2011, which was spent on creating infrastructure for Coggles to grow. More recently, it failed to secure a further £4m investment.
Some worry that further indies could follow Coggles. “If Coggles can’t make it then anyone in the market with its demographic will also be finding it hard,” said Nick Eggleton, branding expert and member of the York Retail Forum.
James Waller, brand director at menswear label Blood Brother, said: “More indies and businesses could go in the next 12 months. Independent buyers need to continue to buy fashion and differentiate from the bigger chains.”