Philip Day confirms Jaeger buy, opens first Days department store
Philip Day, the retail entrepreneur, has finally confirmed that he is the mystery buyer who now owns Jaeger. The Dubai-based billionaire, who also owns the Austin Reed, Peacocks and Jane Norman brands through his Edinburgh Woollen Mill (EWM) operation, revealed his link to Jaeger as he opened the first of what will be a new chain of UK department stores.
Day was known to have acquired Jaeger’s debt from Better Capital earlier this year. But while a consortium of the brand’s suppliers were hoping to buy the brand itself, it emerged that it had been sold but not who had bought it. Day has now confirmed in an interview that the deal to buy Jaeger had finally gone through last week.
The revelation came as he worked the publicity circuit for the new Days department store that he opened in Carmarthen, South Wales on Friday. Four more stores are due this year and there are plans for up to 50 more.
The openings will come at one of the toughest times ever for UK physical stores and at the same time as long-established department store operators are rethinking their physical footprint. The recent Debenhams strategy plan, for instance, included department store closures rather than openings, and John Lewis has said it is unlikely to open more physical stores after the scheduled debuts of its next three. It recently pulled out of plans to open one in Brighton.
But despite challenges, UK department store chains do remain key retail destinations and Day hopes to join their club, although his business model is slightly different from traditional department stores.
As well as other brands, the Days chain will focus on selling all of EWM’s labels under one roof, with reports that this could cut EWM’s overall costs by up to 40%. The stores will also sell additional products such as wine supplied directly from Day’s own Spanish vineyard.
“Over the past decade The Edinburgh Woollen Mill group has built up a portfolio of excellent British Brands and we believe bringing these all together with carefully selected partners will deliver an exciting and enjoyable shopping experience for everyone,” a Days spokesperson said of the concept.
And more brands than EWM currently owns could contribute to the cost savings by year-end with Day expecting the challenging retail environment, plus rising business property taxes and higher costs due to the weak pound, to lead to more administration filings over the next few months.
“Sometimes, lots of things all come at the same time, and I think 2017 is going to be one of those years,” he said in an interview with the Sunday Times.
But while some might look at the failed or ‘distressed’ brands Day has been buying and assume that they are past their best, the entrepreneur is clearly able to make them work. In the latest year for which accounts are available, the 12 months to February 2016, EWM saw sales of just over £576m and underlying pre-tax profit of almost £91m.
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