Theo Paphitis has revealed urgent talks with landlords for his Boux Avenue lingerie chain amid the “most challenging retail environment” in memory.
The high profile businessman and former Dragons’ Den star – whose retail empire also owns Ryman and Robert Dyas – said he was personally leading a root and branch review of the Boux Avenue business, leaving “no stone unturned”.
This will focus on talks with shopping centre landlords in an attempt to slash rents for the 30 Boux stores, but will also look at the brand’s “appropriate mix of channels”.
The Theo Paphitis Retail Group declined to comment on whether this would look at potential store closures.
It comes after annual figures for 2018-19 and the recent Christmas season highlight weak trading at Boux, which is offsetting better performances at Robert Dyas and Ryman.
Paphitis said: “Our group has delivered a resilient performance in what has been the most challenging retail environment we have ever experienced, underpinned by consumer uncertainty and declines in footfall.”
He said Boux was “still paying significantly above average” rents as many rivals have been able to cut their rent bills through controversial company voluntary arrangement (CVA) rescue deals.
“This does not tally with the overall experience we have had with our other businesses located on the high street where we have made some progress in renegotiating rents back towards the market average following constructive discussions with a number of landlords,” he said.
The group saw double digit sales declines at Boux Avenue in recent months, but did not provide specific figures.
It did reveal that group like-for-like sales fell 1.3% over the six weeks to 24 December, dragged lower by Boux Avenue.
This took the shine off sales growth at Robert Dyas and flat sales at Ryman.
Figures for the year to March 30 2019 revealed growing sales and profits for both Robert Dyas and Ryman, but figures were not released for Boux Avenue. He said accounts for Boux will be published after the review.
Robert Dyas more than tripled underlying annual earnings to £1.6 million from £500,000 a year earlier after sales rose 6.3% to £131.8 million.
Ryman saw a 6.5% rise in full-year underlying earnings to £8.2 million after total revenues lifted 1.4% to £1.29.9 million.
Paphitis also took another swipe at the Government over its handling of the business rates review and crisis on Britain’s ailing high street.
He said: “The lack of reform and focus on business rates by the Government and other authorities continues to frustrate us and puts at risk one of the key sectors for the UK economy.”
He said recently some Ryman stores were forced to close in the year to March 2019 due to “disproportionately high” business rates and rent costs.
As well as the 30 Boux shops, his retail group also has around 200 Ryman outlets and 94 Robert Dyas stores.