Coronavirus Slams U.K.’s Cheap Fashion, Italian Food and Hunter Boots

(Bloomberg) --

The coronavirus pandemic is deepening the crisis on Britain’s shopping streets, as businesses ranging from purveyors of cheap, trendy clothing to high-end boot sellers and restaurants announce shop closures and job losses.

The founders of the fashion companies Quiz Plc and Monsoon Accessorize Ltd. announced on Wednesday that they have gone through a so-called prepack administration process in a bid to survive following months of lockdown. Quiz, based in Glasgow, Scotland, is expected to close at least 10 stores. Monsoon Accessorize, a fixture on British main streets since the 1970s, will shut 35 locations with the immediate loss of 545 jobs. A further 100 Monsoon Accessorize stores are at risk of closure.

Restaurant Group Plc, operator of the U.K.’s Frankie and Benny’s Italian-American themed restaurants, plans to close about 125 sites and renegotiate rent terms at another 85. The restaurant owner said on Wednesday that it’s begun restructuring through a so-called company voluntary arrangement. Between 2,000 and 3,000 jobs will be affected, said Simon Hockridge, a spokesman for Restaurant Group.

The pandemic has merely exacerbated the woes of U.K. retailers, a number of whom announced restructurings and closed stores in recent years. Intense competition and changing consumer tastes have also hurt the country’s casual dining industry, and the lockdown has added to the strains on company finances. Although most retailers will be able to reopen on June 15, there is still uncertainty about when and how pubs and restaurants can resume business.

Even the more upscale Hunter Boot Ltd., known for selling Wellington boots worn by celebrities at music festivals, hasn’t been immune. Last week, a group of shareholders injected funds to recapitalize the business, and Hunter has begun a strategic review. The company said on Wednesday that Chief Executive Officer Vincent Wauters is standing down by mutual agreement and will leave at the end of July. His role will be temporarily filled by Paolo Porta, who joins from luxury shoe brand Jimmy Choo.

Peter Simon, the founder of Monsoon Accessorize, is injecting as much as 15 million pounds ($19 million) of cash into the business. He said the retailer “simply could not withstand” the impact of having to close all of its U.K. franchise and joint-venture stores for almost three months. The restructuring process could save as many as 2,300 jobs, and Simon said Monsoon will begin talks with landlords to “try and save as many of our stores as possible.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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