Kate Middleton's Favorite Shop Falls Victim to Retail Crisis

(Bloomberg) -- U.K. fashion chain L.K. Bennett collapsed into insolvency as the country’s growing retail crisis claimed a favorite haunt of Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge.

The move threatens about 500 jobs, deepening the gloom on the U.K.’s shopping strips. Earlier Thursday, department-store and grocery operator John Lewis Partnership Plc cut employee-owners’ annual bonus to the lowest level in more than half a century, while rival Debenhams Plc on Tuesday issued its fourth profit warning in 14 months.

L.K. Bennett filed for administration, a British insolvency procedure, with accounting firm EY managing the process.

Five of the chain’s 39 U.K. stores were immediately shut, EY said in a statement, resulting in 55 layoffs. While others remain open, online sales were suspended to allow the administrators to ensure smooth operations with business partners, the firm said. Some headquarters jobs were also cut, it said.

EY cited “tough trading conditions for retailers,” as well as rent and property-tax increases. It said it’s seeking a buyer.

The high-end brand sells women’s clothing, footwear and bags, often worn by Middleton and Prime Minister Theresa May. John Lewis and department-store chain House of Fraser, which went into administration last year before being bought by billionaire Mike Ashley, also stock the label.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.