Sports Direct announces closure of eight Jack Wills stores

Jack Wills

Sports Direct has announced it will be closing eight of 98 Jack Wills stores following its acquisition of the preppy fashion retailer in a pre-pack deal earlier this month.

Mike Ashley’s retail group said it had intended to keep as many of the stores open as possible following the acquisition but the group’s head of elevation Michael Murray said some stores carried “extortionate rents” and that the retailer had over-stretched itself by expanding its retail footprint.

The group appointed property consultants CBRE to assess the portfolio with reports that it was seeking zero rents on some locations.

The group has announced that it has failed to agree terms on eight stores so far and they will closed.

In a statement, a spokesperson said: “Since rescuing Jack Wills from administration last week, we have been working hard with landlords to try and keep as many stores in the existing portfolio open. Unfortunately, the landlords involved with these eight stores have not cooperated. Where possible, Sports Direct is committed to finding new roles within the group for all affected Jack Wills staff.”

The stores set to close are: Kingston; Durham; Reigate; Derby; Tunbridge Wells; St Albans; Rock; and Marlborough. 

Sports Direct acquired Jack Wills from private equity group BlueGem, who had been unwilling to continue to inject cash into the chain it acquired in 2016 in partnership with its founder Peter Williams.

The business was founded by Williams in 1999 and was a hit among more affluent students and young consumers but had struggled in recent years as the brand lost its appeal and it attempted to expand beyond its middle class consumer base.

Williams originally left the firm in 2013 but returned to buy it back from long-term investor Inflexion in 2016. However he left again in 2018 having fallen out with BlueGem over strategy. He was replaced by former Debenhams trading director Suzanne Harlow.