Clark’s to close a small number of stores permanently

Clark's

Clark’s has said “a small number” of its UK stores will not be re-opened after the Government’s enforced non-essential retail shutdown.

The historic family-owned footwear firm operates around 350 stores in the UK and has confirmed that it has reviewed its leases while the shutdown has been under way.

“As part of this normal review, we have decided not to renew the leases on a small number of stores and as such, these will cease to trade and will not reopen following the coronavirus closures.

“We have a strong duty of care to our employees and are doing everything we can to minimise the impact on colleagues,” it said in a statement.

Clark’s is reported to have drafted in bankers from Rothschild to review finance options for the business, which may include a CVA, however widespread store closures are not expected.

The company, which has been led by Giorgio Presca since February 2019, has also been working with advisers from McKinsey since November last year.

Patrick O’Brien, UK retail research director at GlobalData, said the company had an “excessive” number of stores and the process to eliminate some had come late in the day.

“At the end of its FY2019, Clarks had 521 stores in the UK (including concessions), and while it began a portfolio review in 2017, it really should have started the process of eliminating stores much earlier, as the channel shift over the last decade has not come as a surprise,” he said.

“Progress has been at a snail’s pace – while it has shut some concessions it had the same number of full price stores in the UK at the end of FY2019 as it did at the end of FY2018. The truth is a lack of decisive action over the last five years has put another much loved British retailer in a weaker position than it should be to withstand the current crisis.”