2020 in review: a step by step retrospective of the year that changed fashion retail for good

Social Distancing
Oxford Street social distancing sign © TheIndustry.fashion

However much some of us may want to, 2020 is a year we will never forget. Things got of to a lacklustre start for many after low-key Christmas and it got worse than anyone could have imagined.

A virus that appeared to start in China caused concerns that fashion supplies could be hit but by the time designers were showing in empty rooms in Milan come February as “COVID-19” reached Italian shores, there were fears the impact on business could be far more immediate and severe.

Perhaps it’s best we didn’t know that when stores were order to close in March that they wouldn’t reopen again until 15 June or later and that they would be forced to close throughout the entire month of November and again, in many areas, ahead of Christmas.

The strain was too much for many, already weakened, retailers to take and we said goodbye to many names on the high street including Beales, TM Lewin, Cath Kidston, Oasis, Warehouse, Oliver Sweeney and Laura Ashley to name a few. Many of them live on online, of course, but they left huge gaps on our struggling high streets.

Debenhams spent the year enacting a form of death by a thousands cuts and ended up in liquidation. There is still half a chance that Frasers Group may rescue parts of it but as time passes that becomes less likely. And then there’s Arcadia. Sir Philip Green’s retail empire finally collapsed at the end of the year with the first brand, Evans, having been sold to Australia’s City Chic Collective.

The hiving off of Evans signals that this once mighty group will be picked over and carved up among a number of keen bidders, many of whom are very keen to get their hands on its  prize asset, Topshop. While it’s a sad tale it also proves that, for some, the COVID-19 crisis has provided them with enormous opportunity.

Relive the key months of a landmark year below and once you’ve finished, take some heart in the fact that it’s over. 2021 will be rocky (certainly the first quarter) but a leaner, more sustainable, more innovative industry will emerge from all of this and if you are still in the game then there’s a good chance you can play a part in that brighter future.

January

Next boosts forecasts after a bumper Christmas… Debenhams kicks off the new year with 19 store closures… John Lewis announces depart of MD Paula Nickolds after lackluste Christmas sales… Jigsaw seeks rent reductions from landlords… Amazon is said to be launching a new luxury fashion platform… Shop Direct rebrands to The Very Group… Arcadia reveals 12 store closures after tough trading at Christmas… Jack Wills announces six store closures… Jigsaw’s The Shop at Bluebird in Covent Garden closes its doors for good… Department store chain Beales collapses into administration with 23 stores at risk and more than 1,000 jobs… Misdemeanour assault charges lodged in the US by a Pilates teacher against Sir Philip Green are dropped… Frasers announces new landmark store for Sheffield’s Meadowhall… Ted Baker warns £58m accounting hole is three times worse than it previously thought… 52% of 25-34 year-olds say they buy second-hand clothes… 10,000 retail jobs were lost in January alone… Allbirds announces it will open second UK store… Belgian authorities settle part of a tax probe into Frasers Group… Gap announces a series of global store closures…

Beales

February

French Connection says it will focus on its turnaround plans as no buyer is found after lengthy process… Marks & Spencer launches first ever dedicated denim TV ad… Beales to close more than half of its 23 stores… Selfridges MD Simon Forster departs… MATCHESFASHION appoints former Amazon VP Ajay Kavan as its new CEO… Footasylum takeover by JD Sports blocked by competition watchdog… More than 50 retailers write to Chancellor Rishi Sunak demanding business rates reform… Last remaining Beales stores to close as no buyer is found… Laura Ashley reveals ballooning losses… Peacocks buys Bonmarche, its struggling stablemate… Raf Simons joins Prada as co-creative director… Armani shows AW20 collection to an empty room in Milan as fears of the spread of the new Coronavirus lead to a subdued Milan Fashion Week… Primark warns Coronavirus could impact future supply… Coronavirus crisis prompts UK fashion buyers to look closer to home for suppliers… Henry Holland steps down from his House of Holland label…

Henry Holland, House of Holland
Henry Holland with models wearing his SS20 collection

March

Comedian Joe Lycett changes his name to Hugo Boss to highlight what he believes is its heavy-handed policing of its brand name… YNAP CEO Federico Marchetti says he’s ready to step aside when a successor is found… John Lewis cuts bonus to 67-year low as profits plunge… Henry Holland’s House of Holland enters administration… Debenhams appoints headhunter to search for next CEO… Moss Bros set for £22.6m takeover by Crew Clothing owner Brigadier Acquisition Company… Laura Ashley enters administration… Mulberry creative director Johnny Coca departs after five years… Chancellor Rishi Sunak grants retailers a business rates “holiday”… Remaining Beales stores close for good… Retailers begin voluntary shut-downs ahead of an expected national lockdown due to the growing COVID-19 crisis… Jack Wills announces five permanent store closures… Non-essential retail across the UK is placed into lockdown… UK retailers begin to cancel orders from factories… Kurt Geiger CEO Neil Clifford gives up his salary for a year and offers free shoes to NHS workers… Laura Ashley announces 70 store closures… Jack Wills announces another nine permanent store closures… Oasis and Warehouse begin sale talks… New Look requests three-month rent holiday… Next offers staff 20% bonus for working during lockdown… Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group attempts to keep Sports Direct stores open after lockdown announced but later u-turns… Frasers Group defends itself from criticism by Michael Gove over response to pandemic… QUIZ issues profits warning.. Jack Wills to close a further 17 stores… Mike Ashley apologises for response to COVID-19 crisis…. A number of online retailers suspend operations to implement COVID-safe measures… Men’s Fashion Weeks across Europe are cancelled… Buberry retools factories to make non-surgical gowns and masks… Ted Baker confirms Rachel Osbourne as CEO… Chanel converts its production sites to make face masks…

Empty Oxford Street 2020
Oxford Street: March 2020

April

Laura Ashley enters administration, cuts 268 jobs… Arcadia furloughs vast majority of staff… The Modist closes permanently due to COVID-19 crisis… Joules raises £15m to shore it up during crisis… Primark to cover wages of factory workers after order cancellations… New Look delays supplier payments “indefinitely”… Cath Kidston files notice of appointment of administrators… ASOS raises £247m in share placing… Arcadia looks to raise £50m to see it through crisis… Debenhams enters administration… Givenchy parts company with Clare Waight Keller… Bangladesh garment workers stage mass protest over pay… Next resumes limited online operations… QUIZ reopens its website… Fenwick resumes online orders… Oasis and Warehouse confirm appointment of administrators… River Island resumes online orders as the Harpenne brand backed by River Island Global Holdings ceases trading… TM Lewin begins search for a buyer… Debenhams to close seven stores and cut 422 jobs… Primark agrees to pay suppliers an additional £370m… Primark furloughs 68,000 staff and reveals £248m stock hit… Cath Kidston permanently shuts all 60 stores leading to 900 job cuts as its owner buys back its online business only… Former John Lewis MD Paula Nickolds gets £1m payoff… Brigadier Acquisition Company seeks to withdraw £23m bid for Moss Bros… Boohoo sales soar 44% to £1.23bn…Ted Baker appoints John Barton as chairman… Joules sources and donates thousands of items of PPE to NHS… Laura Ashley brand bought by global advisory and investment firm Gordon Brothers… Frasers Group settles £588m Belgian tax dispute… Burberry donates 100m items of PPE and says it will not take Government money to furlough staff… Mulberry joins the national effort to make PPE… Premium and SEEK cancel 2020 trade shows… Boris Johnson says it’s too early to ease lockdown restrictions… John Lewis reopens factory to make PPE for NHS… Atterley sales up 200% as it launches crowdfunding campaign… UK retailers withhold £2.4bn from Bangladeshi factories, documents show… Marks & Spencer receives funding to preserve liquidity during COVID-19 crisis… David Beckham ends involvement with Kent & Curwen… Oasis and Warehouse CEO Hash Ladha departs… Hush receives the backing of retail investment firm True… No buyer is found for Oasis and Warehouse and they enter liquidation with Hilco… Victoria Beckham reverses decision to furlough staff…

Debenhams JD Sports

May

J.Crew confirms bankruptcy protection filing in US… Net-A-Porter resumes orders and deliveries from UK site… JD Sports’ takeover of Footasylum blocked by the UK competition watchdog… Debenhams announces five further store closures… Next announces it will open dedicated beauty stores in former Debenhams stores… Chancellor Rishi Sunak extends furlough as lockdown eases.. Moss Bros reopens online operations… TM Lewin acquired by Torque Brands, an investment vehicle set up by private equity firm SCP… Marks & Spencer confirms new clothing chief Richard Price will join the business on 6 July… Boohoo raises £200m to fund acquisitions… Savile Row tailors seek rent cuts due to COVID-19… Marks & Spencer to “hibernate” spring stock as it prepares for reopening… French Connection in talks with potential funders… Takeover Panel prevents Brigadier Acquisition Company from withdrawing its bid for Moss Bros… Ted Baker hires Anthony Cuthbertson, formerly of Topshop, as global creative director… Lulu Guinness is saved by its investors… Brigadier Acquisition Company asks Takeover Panel to review its decision not to allow it to withdraw its bid for the menswear chain… Clarks begins talks with potential investor and announces 900 job cuts… Government says non-essential retailers may open from 15 June if they meet new guidelines… Brigadier Acquisition Company withdraws its request for the Takeover Panel to review its decision… DVF UK is placed into administration and Mayfair store closes… Boohoo buys remaining shares in PrettyLittleThing… Debenhams announces hundreds of job cuts… Harrods reveals it will open its first Outlet at Westfield London… Monsoon Accessorize said to be on the brink of administration… Retailers begin to announce store reopening plans with new social distancing and hygiene measures in place…

Moss Bros

June

Hunter secures £16.5m rescue deal… Monsoon Accessorize requests rent waivers from landlords… New Look begins negotiations with landlords… Pitti cancels all 2020 shows… Victoria’s Secret UK arm placed into administration… Mulberry to cut 25% of its workforce… Debenhams confirms three further store closures… Monsoon Accessorize founder Peter Simon buys business out of administration and closes 35 stores… QUIZ places loss-making stores division into administration… A new gender neutral London Fashion Week takes place online only… Non-essential stores in England begin to reopen on 15 June… Boohoo acquires Oasis and Warehouse brands from liquidator to launch them as online-only entities… Superdry exits China store joint venture… AllSaints launches CVA for UK and US stores…Ted Baker raises £105m to help it through crisis… Long Tall Sally says it may cease trading if no buyer is found… Scottish retailers get green light to reopen from 29 June… TM Lewin CEO Sven Gaede steps down… Hotter Shoes owner unveils plans for CVA… Shoe Zone announces 20 store closures… Government revises social distancing rule to 1m… JD Sports buys back Go Outdoors via pre-pack administration… John Lewis names former Co-op deputy CEO Pippa Wicks as executive director… Pure London, Scoop and Jacket Required cancel all 2020 shows… Boohoo announces £150m management incentive plan… Intu confirms appointment of administrators… Next and M&S hover over the UK arm of Victoria’s Secret… Non-essential retail locked down amid surge in COVID-19 cases in the city… A number of Leicester garment factories also lock down… Harrods announces a 14% reduction in head count… Monsoon Accessorize saves 57 more stores as landlords agree to cut rents… Frasers Group takes 10% stake in Hugo Boss… TM Lewin placed into administration with all 66 stores closed…

Oasis Warehouse Boohoo

July

M&Co seeks new investment after £50m COVID-19 hit… John Lewis says some of its stores will remain closed for good… Arcadia announces 500 head office redundancies… Face coverings becoming mandatory in Scottish stores… Moss Bros chair Colin Porter stands down as business goes private… Harrods opens first ever Outlet store in Westfield London… Boohoo rocked by allegations of mistreatment and underpayment of staff at Leicester factory sending shares plunging… Boohoo shares drop a further 24% as analyst says response to Leicester allegations is inadequate… AllSaints CVA approved.. River Island to cut 250 head office jobs… Zalando, ASOS, Next and Very “delist” Boohoo brands over Leicester supply chain allegations… Boohoo hires Alison Levitt QC to look into the allegations… John Lewis announces permanent closure of eight stores including Birmingham flagship… Hotter Shoes pushes for restructure via a CVA… Investors circle footwear chain Clarks… Major investor Standard Life offloads shares in Boohoo… Burberry signals job cuts as sales hit by crisis… ASOS sales up 10% in four months to 30 June as it pays back its furlough cash… Johnsons Shoes Company bought out of administration by independent retailer… Next is the favourite land Victoria’s Secret’s UK arm… British Fashion Council calls for Government support saying 240,000 jobs are at risk in eh sector… Oliver Sweeney announces permanent closure of all stores… Harvey Nichols warns of redundancies… Boohoo reveals plans for a hi-tech Leicester factory… Ted Baker plans to cut 25% of workforce… Marks & Spencer confirms 950 jobs are at risk… Jigsaw appoints advisers and considers sale… Tesco appoints Jan Marchant as CEO of F&F… The wearing of face masks becomes mandatory for retail staff and customers… French Connection receives £15m in funding from Hilco… Debenhams considers sales as part of administration exit plan… Arcadia headed for another restructure… Selfridges cuts 450 jobs… Hotter Shoes CVA approved by creditors… Victoria Beckham cuts 20 staff at London HQ… John Lewis expects online sales to account for 60% of total sales (up from 40%)…

Mahmud Kamani Boohoo
Boohoo’s Mahmud Kamani

August

Pink Shirtmaker closes Jermyn Street flagship… DW Sports placed into administration… M&Co sold in a pre-pack administration deal leading to 50 store closures… Debenhams announces 2,500 job cuts across stores and warehouses… Frasers Group delays its results for the second year running… Creditors approve CVA for Ben Sherman and Jeff Banks licensee Baird Group… Dr Martens reports 48% revenue increase to £672.2m… River Island announces a further 350 job cuts… Jigsaw reveals it could close stores as part of restructuring… Selfridges launches “Project Earth” sustainability programme… Fenwick losses deepen to £49m… Yours Clothing owner acquires Long Tall Sally… Frasers Group reveals sales up 6.9% but COVID-19 crisis hits profits… John Lewis considers dropping “Never Knowingly Undersold” pledge… Frasers Group acquires parts of DW Sports saving hundreds of jobs… Priti Patel urges Boohoo to protect workers in its supply chain… Next signs deals to open beauty stores in former Debenhams stores… New Look outlines new CVA proposals… Hotter investor injects £2m as CVA challenge period ends…

New Look

September

Moss Bros and Ann Summers moot possible CVAs… Jimmy Choo appoints Hannah Colman as CEO… The Hut Group confirms float plans… Jigsaw secures approval for CVA and 13 store closures… Frasers Group claims it is being frozen out of Debenhams sale process… Quiz sales drop as it announces 15 store closures… New Look receives no bids as it prepares for a CVA… Retail sector job cuts top 125,000 in first eight months of the year… J.Crew exits bankruptcy in the US with new owner… Next seals JV deal to opera UK arm of Victoria’s Secret… New Look CVA gets green light from landlords… The Hut Group starts trading on the London Stock Exchange… John Lewis drops staff bonus after half-year loss… London Fashion Week goes ahead with just a handful of socially distanced physical shows… Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group explores valuation of Peacocks… Scrapping VAT-free shopping will cost 70,000 jobs retailers warn the Chancellor… Aldo UK arm sold to Bushell Investment Group… J.Crew announces closure of all UK stores.. Ralph Lauren to cut 15% of global workforce… India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani or Reliance Retail eyes Debenhams… Ted Baker names Next as new lingerie and nightwear licence partner… LionRock Capital in the frame to acquire majority stake in Clarks… Boohoo bosses “new of supply chain problems nine months before scandal” Alison Levitt QC’s report concludes… Lord Rose exits Fat Face as refinancing completes… Boohoo raises full-year revenue forecast as sales soar…

John Lewis & Partners
John Lewis, Oxford Street © TheIndustry.fashion

October

H&M announces closure of 250 global stores… Hush appoints former Superdry COO Susanne Given as its chair… Next debuts dedicated beauty stores… and Edinburgh Woollen Mill mulls legal action following claims of unpaid bills by the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association… The Very Group announces it’s back in the black as revenue tops £2bn… American hedge fund Davidson Kempner eyes Peacocks… Kurt Geiger reveals plans for 25% reduction in head count… ASOS profits quadruple as sales jump during pandemic… Matalan profits plunge 44%… Edinburgh Woollen Mill to close 50 stores… Boohoo auditor PwC stands down… Wales closes non-essential retail in two-week lockdown… TM Lewin owner Torque eyes Jaeger and Austin Reed… Iconic London boutique celebrates 50th anniversary… Adidas considers selling British-founded brand Reebok… Gap says it is likely to close all of its owned European stores by next spring… Edinburgh Woollen Mill granted 10-day extension to secure rescue deal… Clarks begins restructuring talks with landlords… Flannels opens new store in Birmingham… John Lewis wins permission to convert 45% of Oxford Street store into offices… Hush reveals its first ever £1m in sales in one day… Non-essential retail plunged into another month-long lockdown…

Edinburgh Woollen Mill

November

Frasers Group ups its stake in Mulberry… Marks & Spencer plunges to first loss in 94 years… Clarks set to be rescued by £100m LionRock Capital deal… Frasers Group drops out of running to acquire Debenhams… Farfetch, Alibaba and Richemont form partnership to accelerate digitisation of luxury… Edinburgh Woollen Mill collapses into administration… Frasers Group claims it is being frozen out of Jaeger sale process… VF Corp announces acquisition of Supreme… Selfridges appoints Andrew Keith as managing director… Tribunal overturns watchdog’s block on JD Sports’ Footasylum buy… Arcadia scrambles to secure £30m in emergency funding… JD Sports revealed to be in the running to buy Debenhams… Frasers Group increases stake in Mulberry again… Peacocks and Jaeger fall into administration… Clarks CVA gets go-ahead from creditors.. Prime Minister confirms reopening of non-essential retail on 2 December… JD Sports enters into exclusive talks about the buyout of Debenhams… Abercrombie & Fitch announces closure of London flagship… Boohoo appoints retired judge Sir Brian Leveson to oversee supply chain… Government announces new regional Tier 1-3 categories… Online retailers prepare for biggest Black Friday ever as stores remain shut… Jaeger begins store closures and redundancies… Moss Bros launches CVA proposal… YNAP announces Geoffroy Lefebvre as the successor as CEO to Federico Marchetti… Arcadia declines £50m loan offer from Mike Ashley… Arcadia collapses into administration…

Topshop Arcadia
Topshop, Oxford Street

December

Debenhams begins liquidation proceedings after Arcadia collapse as JD pulls out of acquisition talks… Bonmarche collapses into administration again… Zara reveals new concept store at Bluewater… Non-essential retail reopens after Lockdown 2… Primark owner takes £430m hit from lockdowns… Management submit buy-out proposal for Peacocks… Ann Summers launches CVA proposal… Frasers Group revealed to be in last-minute talks to save Debenhams… Frasers Group confirms is interest in Arcadia brands… Primark owner also said to be in running to acquire Arcadia brands… Ted Baker losses triple as a result of crisis… LVMH puts Pink Shirtmaker up for sale… JD Sports acquires Shoe Palace in the US… Landlords approve Moss Bros CVA… Debenhams launches closing down sale… Boohoo’s Mahmud Kamani appears before MPs vowing to “make Leicester right” after accusations about mistreatment of staff in its supply chain… Frasers says it has no immediate plans to launch a bid for Mulberry… Flannels announces three new flagships for 2021… Next said to be in advanced talks to buy Arcadia brands… Much of London, the East and South East are plunged into Tier 4 lockdown with just a couple of hours’ notice… Frasers Group issues profits warning over Tier 4 lockdown… Australia’s City Chic Collective buys the Evans brand from the collapsed Arcadia empire… Boohoo is hit by further accusations about its supply chain, this time in Pakistan… 40,000 retailers are said to be in “significant distress”… Ann Summers secures CVA for 25 stores… Clarks shareholders approve £100m investment by LionRock… Model Stella Tennant dies suddenly at the age of 50… More areas of England (most of the East and South East are plunged into Tier 4 lockdown)…

Sports Direct Mike Ashley Jack Wills
Mike Ashley