ONE of Holly Willoughby’s favourite footwear retailers, with branches across Yorkshire and the North East, has taken the first steps towards launching a business recovery plan.
As Office flip-flops between solvency and insolvency, its bosses are eyeing up a major restructuring programme to ensure its future financial stability.
But in recognising that one size does not fit all, it is exploring a number of business recovery options.
As the chain battles to head off insolvency, widespread media reports have suggested that one of the options being pursued is a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA).
This is one of several survival options for an insolvent business.
Whatever action it takes, insolvency experts warn it could see the shutters coming down on some of its 100 or so UK stores.
Founded in 1981, the brand has a strong presence in Yorkshire and the North East, with stores in Leeds, York, Sheffield, Huddersfield, Gateshead and Newcastle.
Insolvency fears will come as a blow to celebrities such as Holly Willoughby, Nicole Scherzinger, Fearne Cotton, Pixie Lott, Lorraine Kelly and Taylor Swift – all of whom are Office footwear fans.
Its battle to avoid insolvency, and potential job losses, puts another boot into Britain’s struggling High Streets.
Office was reportedly one of House of Fraser’s creditors when it chain went into administration in 2018. Business support experts suggest it was owed £700,000 in payments by the department store chain.
Earlier this year, when insolvency headlines first surfaced, Office said that “continued concerns over Brexit and depressed consumer demand” had resulted in a financial hit to the business.
Yet against this insolvency backdrop, its Board insisted that it was “in a strong position to continue to grow”.
In addition to its Yorkshire and North East branches, Office also sells shoes in many major cities and shopping centres across the UK, as well as having stores in Germany and Ireland.
The news comes at the end of a bleak fortnight for the High Street, after Boots unveiled a closure plan affecting 200 of its stores – with Yorkshire and North East outlets unlikely to escape the hit-list.
And Leeds-based bookmakers William Hill announced the closure of 700 shops with 4,500 jobs at risk. It has over 25 betting shops in Leeds alone.
Marks and Spencer, which also has strong Yorkshire roots after launching as Marks‘ Penny Bazaar in 1884 in Leeds Kirkgate Market, is also closing more stores as part of a restructuring plan.
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