Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Ponden Home are retail casualties

Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Ponden Home, both part of the Philip Day retail conglomerate, have fallen into administration, with 2,900 jobs now at risk.

Administrators were called into the retail operation on Friday November 6 after Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Ponden failed to find buyers. 866 staff were made redundant immediately, although both retail chains will continue to trade in accordance with lockdown rules.
56 stores and their concessions across both brands had already closed permanently in the weeks running up to the collapse, resulting in 600 redundancies.

The wider Edinburgh Woollen Mill group, which has several brands under its umbrella, is not part of the administration.

Advisers to the retail chains said both had been trading well before the pandemic struck, but lockdown restrictions seriously knocked sales from their main customers, the elderly and overseas tourists.

Other high street brands which had to cut jobs in the past week week include John Lewis, which made 1,500 staff redundant, and Sainsbury’s, which let 3,500 staff go. Other big retail names, including Coach, Russell & Bromley, Guess, Urban Outfitters, Geox, The Fragrance Shop, The Entertainer and Pret A Manger are embroiled in a High Court dispute over rents at the Westfield shopping centre in London.

Gary Grant, who is owner of independent toy retail chain, The Entertainer, said he was “seriously mad” about the steps being taken by his Westfield landlord, saying: “First day of a second lockdown in my second-busiest month of the year. Where is the partnership, when your landlord comes after you with a final demand? We have tried to engage with Westfield … we run a good business.”

The regional managing director of Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, Scott Parsons, commented: “Only in situations where a retailer has refused to collaborate in pursuit of an agreement that could work for both parties would we consider legal action.”

Carlisle-based knitwear and homeware brand, Edinburgh Woollen Mill, was founded 1947. It had 384 stores and 2,571 staff before trading slipped. Ponden, which sells homewares, curtains, bedding and furniture, had 73 stores and 329 staff before it collapsed.