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Apr 2, 2017
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Prospects for stores look bleak as Jaeger deal is sealed

Apr 2, 2017

There is confusion surrounding the future of Jaeger as the week starts with reports that the brand's debt has been sold and also that it could go into administration followed by an immediate acquisition. And if an administration filing is imminent, it looks like a substantial number of stores could close with the 700 staff facing significant job losses.

Jaeger could be quickly acquired by Edinburgh Woollen Mill - Jaeger

Late on Friday private equity owner Better Capital, headed by Jon Moulton, said it had sold the company’s debt for £7 million, which represents a £62 million loss on the investment made in the firm.

It did not say who had bought the debt, citing a confidentiality agreement, but analysts believe Edinburgh Woollen Mill (EWM) is behind the deal.

Sources said Jaeger is now likely to be put it into administration and bought by EWM in a so-called pre-pack deal that would allow it to shutter the large of lossmaking locations in its 25-store portfolio.

EWM is run by billionaire Philip Day and also bought classic fashion peer Austin Reed out of administration. It had long been rumoured to be most likely to win the race to acquire the business, even though former Jaeger owner Harold Tillman was also thought to be interested.

So what are the prospects for Jaeger as it moves into a new phase? Well, the situation does not look good. Pr-Brexit Britain is facing higher inflation, a consumer shifting spending away from fashion and a classic fashion sector that has seen its core market evaporate over a number of decades.

The state of the UK high street has driven a number of businesses into administration recently with the highest-profile names including once-successful Agent provocateur, Jones Bootmaker and Brantano.

As for Jaeger itself, UK press reports at the weekend quoted sources saying the business is “broken” and requires major work to fix it, despite it having begun to open new stores in recent months.

It is likely that Jaeger will be operated largely as an online brand and will also be sold in department store concessions. It already has an online business and has been available through concessions for many years.

Better Capital acquired Jaeger in 2012  for £19.5 million and, including that sum, invested a total of £69 million into it as it tried to turn the 133-year-old business into a growth engine. The £7 million sale was described by analysts as  “a disappointment for shareholders” and that was understandable given that as recently as last September it was valued at £23 million.

But its sales had fallen to £78.4 million in 2016 from £84.2 million in 2015 and it made a loss of £5.4 million as it closed three stores, including its long-time Regent Street flagship. Yet there had been some signs of improvement and it also opened a new flagship on London’s Marylebone High Street last October.

In an interview this year, better Capital’s Jon Moulton blamed the fashion sector’s troubles on heavy discounting, saying that endless markdowns on the high street destroy brand image and hurt retailers across all price sectors.

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