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In History: Ted Baker. A timeline of a British retail icon

Lauretta Roberts
27 March 2024

Ted Baker founder Ray Kelvin is without doubt one of the most talented retailers of his generation and it is also without doubt that since 2019, when he was obliged to leave the business he founded 30 years previously, it's all gone to pot.

Kelvin stood down from Ted Baker in 2019 following allegations – always denied – of harassment of staff. Defenders say he was a misunderstood eccentric, detractors that he was out of touch and inappropriate. Whatever he was, Ted Baker was driven by his vision, uncompromising standards and limitless energy. He was the glue that held Ted Baker together and, when he went, it came unstuck.

After the farrago of Kelvin's departure in 2019, incoming CFO Rachel Osborne (who was later to become CEO) discovered financial reporting errors that lead to a big black hole in its accounts. And we all know what came shortly after... the pandemic.

Ray Kelvin Ted Baker

Image: Alamy. Ray Kelvin obscures his face as he poses for a portrait. He rarely allowed himself to be photographed

On the face of it, though, Ted Baker seemed to be able to weather the trauma of this better than most by harnessing its assets and issuing shares to raise cash.

After the pandemic it moved to a new HQ in central London and from the outside things looked settled and positive with new store signings and talk of growth strategies. Then an unsolicited approach from US private equity house Sycamore Partners threw a hand grenade into proceedings.

Sycamore, having caused a whole load of hassle, did not end up buying the business but American brand house Authentic Brands Group (ABG) eventually did.

ABG runs a number of brands, from Juicy Couture to Reebok, and it does so via licensing. Its hands-off approach to running businesses meant it quickly signed multiple deals to outsource everything from design to retail management.

All of that is the polar opposite of the forensic attention to detail, obsessive brand control and quirky personality that had made Ted Baker so special and so successful in the first place.

Ted Baker Menswear

That being said there are many great licensing businesses out there who take good care of the brands under their stewardship (PDS, which took over the apparel design operation, is one such example). Sadly ABG made what turned out to be a shockingly bad decision to hand the running of its UK and European stores and e-commerce to a retail management company in The Netherlands called AARC. Who on earth are they and what qualified them to run the stores of the UK high street's leading lights? Both questions, it seems, that ABG failed to ask itself before handing over the keys.

AARC ran into financial difficulty almost immediately and ABG tried to bail them out with a loan. Eventually ABG pulled the plug on the partnership last month. That partnership, says ABG, caused significant "damage" to the business and on 19 March, No Ordinary Designer Label (NODL), the company which trades as Ted Baker, filed a motion to appoint administrators.

ABG says it is committed to finding another retail partner (let's hope the due diligence is more robust this time) and the stores and website will continue to trade in the meantime. Almost 1,000 jobs are hanging in the balance.

How did we get here? The key chapters in the history of this extraordinary business are set out below. Where do we go from here? That chapter is yet to be written. We're hoping for a happy one.

Ted Baker opens in Glasgow in 1988

Timeline: a brief history of Ted Baker's milestones

1988 – Ted Baker was founded by Ray Kelvin, who named it after his alter ego. Specialising in men's shirts, Ted Baker opens its first store in Glasgow, followed by Manchester, Sheffield, Cambridge and Nottingham Exchange Arcade.

1990 – Ted Baker's first London store opens in Covent Garden and Kelvin acquired the company outright from part-owners Goldberg and Sons.

1993 – The British retailer opened more stores in Soho, London, Leeds Victoria Quarter and Bridlesmith Gate, Nottingham.

1994 – Ted Baker launched the wholesale business in the UK with a new store opening in Button Street, Liverpool.

1995 – The Ted Baker Woman and Ted Baker Lite lines were launched as the retailer expanded its product offerings.

Ted Baker New York

1996 – Wholesale trading launches in the USA in 1996. Ted Baker opens a womenswear store in Nottingham and extended its Covent Garden and Leeds stores.

1997 – Ted Baker became a public company, Ted Baker PLC, trading as "'No Ordinary Designer Label Limited".

1998 – The company launches its website and releases a Skinwear and Underwear line.

2000 - The company launches its Ted Baker Footwear collection and moves its HQ to The Ugly Brown Building in North London. Ted Baker also opens its largest store to date in Birmingham. New stores in Richmond, Canary Wharf and King’s Road, London also make their debut.

The Ugly Brown Building

2004 – Ted Baker enters the Australia and New Zealand markets, with new stores opening in San Francisco, Las Vegas, Regent St, London, Stansted Airport and Guildford.

2007 – The retailer releases a jewellery line and two mobile phones, The Button and The Needle. New store openings include Dublin, Melbourne, Miami, Gatwick’s North Terminal, and a womenswear boutique in Covent Garden.

Ted's Grooming Room

2010 – Ted Baker opened its first standalone Grooming Room. The business also launches a new US website and the world’s first Twitter-operated styling studio, "Take on Ted".

2014 – The business expands its product range with a luggage, home fragrance and audio collection, with new store openings in Birmingham, Heathrow T2 and Abu Dhabi.

2018 – Ted Baker launches its first advertising campaign to celebrate its 30th anniversary. By this time, the business has 490 stores and concessions worldwide.

March 2019 – Ray Kelvin resigns following allegations of staff harassment, which he has consistently denied. His right-hand man Lindsay Page is appointed CEO.

June 2019 – The company issues a profits warning amid "extremely challenging" trading conditions.

August 2019 – Ted Baker expands its kidswear range in partnership with Next.

Ted Baker Kidswear

October 2019 – The business falls into the red announcing losses of £23m in the six months to August 2019.

November 2019 – Rachel Osborne joins the business as CFO having previously been with high street giant Debenhams. A month later it is announced the company's accounts had been overstated by up to £25m.

December 2019 – Kelvin's replacement as CEO, Lindsay Page, resigns

January 2020 – The company announces an accounting error it had highlighted a year earlier, which meant there would be a £58 million deficit on its balance sheet. Preliminary investigations demonstrated the business to had overestimated the value of stock held in January 2019 by between £20m and £25m.

Rachel Osborne

Rachel Osborne, former Ted Baker CEO

March 2020 - Ted Baker CFO Rachel Osborne steps up to become the company's third CEO in just over a year, just as the pandemic hits.

April 2020 – Ted Baker furloughs around 2,000 employees, nearly 75% of workforce due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The company also suspended non-essential capital expenditure and halted any discretionary operating expenses in order to raise £100 million to shore up its balance sheet.

September 2020 – It announces Next as its new lingerie and nightwear partner and a men's formalwear licensing deal with Baird Group.

Ted Baker stores re-opened after lockdown

June 2021 – The fashion retailer reveals £100 million loss due to sales slump despite turnaround plan to cut annual costs by £31m, revamp the company's product range and increase its digital presence.

July 2021 – The business quits the Ugly Brown Building in North London having sold the King's Cross site to the British Airways Pension Trustees for £78.8m. It moves to the Gorgeous Brown Building in Fitzrovia.

September 2021 – Ted Baker reports a 50% leap in quarterly revenues aided by the end of pandemic discounting.

March 2022 – Launches new website to drive global growth and announces a new franchise partnership with Aldrich Group to accelerate store openings.

March 2022 - Ted Baker rejects two takeover bids from US private equity giant Sycamore Partners, the latter of which valued the business at £254 million, as it backed its strategy to bounce back from the pandemic over the offer on the table.

April 2022 - The company launches a formal sale process after receiving a third takeover bid from Sycamore Partners and another "unsolicited" approach by an unnamed party.

May 2022 - Authentic Brands Group is linked with a potential £300 million buyout of Ted Baker.

June 2022 – Ted Baker shares tumble as frontrunner to buy the business "walks away". It is believed this is Authentic Brands Group.

August 2022 – Ted Baker agrees to a £211 million takeover by Authentic Brands Group.

October 2022 – Authentic Brands Group finalises £211 million takeover of Ted Baker.

January 2023 – Ted Baker begins redundancy consultation with head office staff.

April 2023 – CEO Rachel Osborne steps down. AARC signs deal to operate Ted Baker's UK and European stores and e-commerce and PDS takes over Ted Baker's design function.

Authentic Brands Group Ted Baker

Aldo Group signed a deal to create Ted Baker shoes and handbags

May 2023 – Aldo Group signs licensing deal to create Ted Baker footwear and handbags.

October 2023 – Authentic Brands Group provides loan to prop up troubled retail partner AARC.

February 2024 – ABG pulls the plug on the retail deal with AARC.

March 2024 – administrators appointed to UK business, but it continues to trade. ABG confirms it is seeking a new retail partner.

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