The future of Austin Reed, CC and Viyella remains uncertain as administrators assess initial offers for the whole business, while a raft of retailers circle stores from its “strong” portfolio in predominantly affluent market towns.
The deadline for initial expressions of interest passes today. Administrator AlixPartners wants to sell the chain as a going concern.
Sources close to the situation told Drapers there was no obvious frontrunner, but acknowledged there was likely to be a lot of interest. One source cast doubt on rumours that Edinburgh Woollen Mill founder Philip Day could step in to save the day.
Alteri Investors bought the group on April 15 after it had previously provided a loan to the business last year but it collapsed into administration last week, putting almost 1,200 jobs at risk.
“It would not surprise me if Alteri came back in if there wasn’t the right offer,” one source said.
Another source said: “The big problem is a buyer will either be interested in the menswear or the womenswear, and it is a question of how you break those apart.”
Several mid-market retailers are understood to be eyeing Austin Reed Group’s portfolio of stores in sought-after market towns and city locations including Oakham in Leicestershire, Stamford in Lincolnshire, Bristol and Chester, Drapers has learned.
One property source said: “There is lots of interest around the property portfolio, which is largely made up of stores in solid market towns. The likes of Seasalt, White Stuff, Mint Velvet, Hotter Shoes, TM Lewin, Charles Tyrwhitt, Joules, Fat Face and Pure Collection will all be looking to pick up a few if they become available.
“They are some of the most aggressive [in looking for more stores] at the moment and there is a shortage of stock.”
There is also understood to be a lot of interest in the Regent Street flagship from both international and UK retailers. Most are fashion, although Drapers understands there have been approaches from technology and other retailers.
Austin Reed Group has 100 standalone stores and 50 concessions in the UK and Ireland, and employs around 1,184 people.
Last year it entered into a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) and closed more than 30 underperforming stores.
Property consultancy GCW is advising the administrator but declined to comment.
Alteri and AlixPartners declined to comment.