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Animal set to close amid coronavirus crisis and weak retail opportunities

Tom Bottomley
23 April 2020

Dorset-based surfing-inspired brand Animal – which originally launched in 1987 – is being shut down, another casualty of the weak UK retail sector and COVID-19 pandemic.

The company has a chain of shops and concessions in stores such Debenhams, John Lewis, Blacks and Millets. It will not cease to trade immediately, though no buyer has been found to take it off H Young Holdings’ hands.

Potential brand buyers, looking to take over the struggling business once it has collapsed, have not emerged, and the Animal brand is so far not seen as a worthwhile investment during the current unprecedented retail climate.

In a statement, the owner said: “As a result of the extremely challenging retail market which has now further worsened due to Covid-19, H Young announces it will be closing its Animal business by the end of January 2O21.

“This will obviously be a very sad announcement for all Animal's hardworking employees and its loyal customers. ln this period, Animal will continue trading through its stores and its website and its clothing will also be available through its distributors.”

The company also told its staff that it has been examining many options for Animal with an aim to securing a commercially viable future for the brand, but the business has been loss-making of late and this is “clearly not a sustainable position.”

It also considered options to allow it to continue as part of the H Young Holdings group, including the use of third-party warehousing, relocation to smaller premises and an absorption into other group businesses. But none of the business plans for these options “has been compelling enough to justify the investment required by the group.”

Animal was launched in 1987 by surfers Ian Elliot and Nigel Broughton. The company gradually expanded, and currently has 29 stores and 236 stockists. Supplier and distributor H Young Holdings bought it in 1999.

The latest set of accounts available for the company showed turnover of almost £218m in its 2018 financial year, with a net profit of almost £10m.

A rescue may still be possible but, for many, the brand may be considered an outdated concept that needs too much to reinvigorate to attract it to a new customer base. Alas, Animal looks like it’s facing extinction.

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