Homepage of the Warehouse website

It was good to chat to Nick Ferrari on LBC radio this morning about Oasis and Warehouse, the fashion retail group that collapsed into administration yesterday.

Both brands have been through the mill in the last decade (various owners, up for sale then not up for sale, hit by House of Fraser and other department store collapses), but were making progress in the last couple of years in terms of growing sales, particularly online.

So, they weren’t, arguably, destined for inevitable collapse even before coronavirus, unlike Debenhams, Laura Ashley and others.

However, a chain making just under £1m operating profit on sales of nearly £300m in the most recent full year doesn’t leave much wriggle room in a crisis. The group has, wisely, focused on boosting its multichannel offer in the last year or two – with online now accounting for about a third of sales – but, like many long-established fashion retailers, it still remains heavily exposed to the COVID-19 disruption on the high street, with 90 standalone stores and a hefty 437 department store concessions in outlets such as John Lewis, House of Fraser, Debenhams, Fenwick and Outfit.

As I keep noting, business rates are waived for 2020-21, and most non-working retail staff furloughed for as long as stores remain closed, but the expectation by landlords that retailers will keep paying their rent – despite nothing coming through the tills – is only going to create more pinch points in the weeks ahead.

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