Is the High Street in Yorkshire and the rest of the UK in danger of being all dressed up – but with nowhere to go?
As the Yorkshire media spotlight turns to more insolvency fears in the beleaguered retail sector, that’s the question being posed by analysts. Mounting concerns over the predicted rise in insolvency cases have been triggered by the demise of Yorkshire clothing retailer Greenwoods. After almost 160 years as a menswear specialist, with stores across Yorkshire and the North, it became the first high-profile insolvency victim of 2019. Like us, it had strong Yorkshire roots – for many decades it was headquartered just down the road from us in Guiseley, the small West Yorkshire town nestling between Leeds and Bradford also famed as the birthplace of the likes of Harry Ramsden fish and chips and Silver Cross prams. As Yorkshire insolvency experts, we share the pain felt by the company as its financial struggles were seemingly so tough it collapsed into liquidation.
In its heyday, we all probably know someone who bought their black tie dinner suit, or hired their morning suits for a wedding, through Greenwoods. However, retail analysts fear their business failed to move with the times and was no longer made-to-measure for the High Street. With fewer weddings choosing a formal dresswear approach, and a more casual dress sense becoming the norm in the workplace, the need to be frequently suited and booted is on the wane. This is the second time the company has been hit by insolvency. It entered administration for the first time a few years ago when administrators were successful in finding a buyer – and a cash injection – to turn around its insolvency and revive its flagging fortunes.
But this time the financial problems leading to insolvency seem terminal, with staff at its chain of 40 stores being told to hang up their tape measures one final time. As a result of the insolvency, we have seen the shutters come down at shops across Yorkshire and surrounding counties – from Barnsley to Burnley, Bradford to Bridlington, Doncaster to Darlington, Harrogate to Halifax, Huddersfield to Hull, and Scarborough to Selby – as well as its flagship stores in Leeds, York and Sheffield.The loss of these hundreds of jobs has thrust insolvency back into the headlines amid weak trading figures at the peak festive and sales shopping period.
HMV was another Christmas insolvency victim in a year that was still reeling from the likes of Poundworld, Maplins and Toys R Us cashing up for the final time. They have all contributed to a rise in business insolvencies nationwide during 2018, with all eyes now awaiting the final quarter’s insolvency figures. When Greenwoods was founded in a hatter’s shop in Bradford in 1860, Abraham Lincoln was making giant strides as a politician the other side of the Atlantic.Closer to home an author was putting the finishing touches to his latest novel – one with a title that the High Street will be desperately hoping is a prophecy for its year ahead.
That writer was Charles Dickens. And his book was … Great Expectations.