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Jack Wills accounts reveal historic challenges faced by the business

Lauretta Roberts
05 March 2019

Jack Wills has this week filed accounts for the year to January 2018 which show the British fashion brand racked up a loss at EBITDA level of -£7.5m during the challenging 52-week period, but the company said it has since received further financial and has "moved on significantly since then".

Sales for the period were down slightly (-1.1%) at £129.3m, despited the opening of 12 new stores stores during the period (one store was closed), while gross margin earned on sales fell significantly to 50.98% from 55.87% in the prior year.

However in January of this year the business concluded a refinancing involving the reconfirmation of a £25m revolving credit facility with HSBC, a minority investment from Italian investor GGG S.p.a (Giorgio Girondi) and further investment from its private equity backer BlueGem.

Last year the business parted company with its founder and CEO Peter Williams who had been back in charge for a second stint. Williams had bought the company back from its previous long-term investor, Inflexion, in partnership with BlueGem in 2015. But it was hit by the slump in Sterling following the Brexit vote which pushed up its costs and a move into wholesale had tied up cash in other retailers' stock.

Suzanne Harlow, formerly trading director of Debenhams, was brought in to replace Williams and as one of a number of turnaround measures has implemented a new sourcing strategy to cut costs and keep pricing competitive.

In a statement the company said: “It is true that 2017/18 was a challenging year but the business has moved on significantly since then. The improved processes and tighter financial disciplines we have put in place helped halve the ebitda loss for 2018/19.

"Looking forward, Jack Wills recently completed a significant refinancing, with continued support from our major shareholder, BlueGem. This puts us on a firm footing as we seek to return to sustainable growth by improving our product range and re-engaging with customers via the right channels.”

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