Edinburgh Woollen Mill (EWM) and Ponden Home, both chains owned by EWM Group, have gone into administration, putting the livelihoods of thousands of employees at risk. Currently, EWM operates 328 stores and employs 2,571 individuals, while Ponden Home employs 329 people. Unfortunately, immediate layoffs have already occurred, with 860 jobs being cut. This is primarily due to the permanent closure of 56 Edinburgh Woollen Mill shops and eight Ponden Home stores and concessions. As administrators take charge, they are exploring potential options for the future in the hopes of finding a buyer or buyers, which could potentially save the remaining 2,000 posts that are now in jeopardy.

Although the stores will remain open where possible, online sales will be a key focus for both businesses during this challenging time. However, many physical stores will be forced to temporarily close due to ongoing lockdown measures in different parts of the UK. Before the Covid-19 crisis emerged, Edinburgh Woollen Mill had been a successful part of the EWM operation. However, the impact of the pandemic on its core customer base, combined with stricter trading restrictions, has made the current structure of the businesses unsustainable, necessitating redundancies.

Joint administrator Tony Wright emphasized the difficulties that retailers have faced in recent months, even those that were performing well before the pandemic. He assured that support will be provided to all affected staff members during this uncertain period.

EWM and Ponden Home are part of a retail group owned by billionaire entrepreneur Philip Day. This group also includes budget fashion chain Peacocks, as well as more high-end brands like Jaeger and Austin Reed. Reports suggest that Day is working towards retaining control of Peacocks but may consider selling the other brands, as there have already been expressions of interest from potential buyers. It is worth noting that Day also controls Peacocks rival Bonmarché through a separate company.

This news about EWM’s administration adds to the distressing state of the UK retail industry in recent times. Sainsbury’s has announced the loss of 3,500 jobs, largely due to the closure of most Argos stores. Meanwhile, John Lewis has stated that it will cut up to 1,500 roles and Clarks has announced the potential loss of 700 jobs.

1. BBC
2. The Guardian