News has just broken today that the majority of Austin Reed stores will disappear from the high street after a deal to buy the business out of administration only included the historic brand’s name and stock.
According to reports Edinburgh Woollen Mill brokered a deal with administrator Alix Partners that included the Austin Reed brand, including womenswear brand CC, its stock and just five of its stores located at the Boundary Mill outlet villages across the north of England.
While the saviour of the name is cause for some celebration it does mean that 1,000 jobs will be lost and its remaining 120 stores will be wound down in the coming weeks, which is another big blow to the British high street following the collapse of BHS in April (that business is still desperately searching for a buyer).
It was believed that many had shown interest in buying Austin Reed including Sports Direct, and entrepreneurs Harold Tillman (former owner of Jaeger and Aquascutum) and Touker Suleyman, owner of Hawes & Curtis and star of Dragon’s Den.
Austin Reed: a history
The deal with Edinburgh Woollen Mill is the latest chapter in the brand’s history, the highlights and lowlights of which are as follows:
1900: the business was founded by Austin Leonard Reed (great grandfather of Asos founder Nick Robertson) and claimed to be the first menswear store to bring made-to-measure quality to the ready-to-wear market. Its first store was in London’s Fenchurch Street
1911: The brand opened its flagship store at 103-113 Regent Street
1920s: The Regent Street store doesn’t lose a day’s trade as Regent Street is built around it
1929 – 1946: Several concessions opened on famous liner ships including RMS Aquitani, RMS Queen Mary and RMS Queen Elizabeth
1940s: Winston Churchill’s famous siren suits were manufactured by Austin Reed. The former prime minister was himself a customer and another famous name who went on to shop with the brand was Elizabeth Taylor. The Regent Street store narrowly avoids being destroyed during the Blitz
1954: Austin Leonard Reed passes away
1980s: The launch of Austin Reed’s womenswear
1998: The Austin Reed Group acquires classic womenswear brand CC (formerly known as Country Casuals)
2009: The Austin Reed Group acquires heritage brand Viyella
2011: Austin Reed moves from the original 103-113 Regent Street Store to the opposite side (100 Regent Street) A film is produced to mark the occasion
2015: Closes 31 of its worst performing stores
2016: Austin Reed enters administration, Edinburgh Woollen Mill acquires brand, stock and five outlet stores but around 120 other stores are set to close
The move means another famous British brand will exit Regent Street, which is increasingly being taken over by international superbrands. Last year Jaeger exited 200-206 Regent Street, which is currently being converted into a flagship store for US brand Coach and sister label Stuart Weitzman. Other new US arrivals on Regent Street include Michael Kors which recently unveiled its new European flagship, Kate Spade and Polo Ralph Lauren who will shortly open a vast new store next to Michael Kors. British high street brand French Connection has also recently vacated its prime position close to Oxford Circus.