Finance Consumer Jobs, stores thrown lifeline as Australian retailer saved from collapse

Jobs, stores thrown lifeline as Australian retailer saved from collapse

harris scarfe buyer
About 1300 jobs will be saved if the sale of Harris Scarfe goes ahead as planned. Photo: Facebook
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Collapsed department store chain Harris Scarfe has found a buyer in the Spotlight Group, although it is not yet clear how many stores and jobs will be saved.

The 170-year-old retail chain went into receivership in December 2019, putting the future of its 1800 staff and 66 locations in doubt.

The administrators cut the number of Harris Scarfe stores to 44 after taking over, while staff numbers were reduced to about 1300.

On Tuesday, receivers from Deloitte Restructuring Services said they had granted the Spotlight group exclusive rights to buy the business, after earlier short-listing four parties.

The Spotlight Group is owned by rich-listers Zac Fried and his uncle Morry Fraid. It operates fabric and craft chain Spotlight and outdoor wear retailers Anaconda and Mountain Designs.

The receivers said they were “seeking to secure the ongoing employment” of the remaining staff members.

“We are hopeful all of the 44 stores will be retained under the sale but ultimately, this will be dependent on how the transaction progresses over the next couple of weeks,” receiver Vaughan Strawbridge said.

Harris Scarfe joined an expanding list of Australian retail casualties in recent months. They include accessories chain Colette and clothing retailers Jeanswest and Bardot, which all shut stores after entering administration.

Jeanwest, which closed a quarter of its shops and made more than 260 staff redundant, was thrown a lifeline last week with its sale to Harbour Guidance, the subsidiary of a Hong Kong company run by the same family that previously owned it.

The receivers for Harris Scarfe said they expected to finalise the sale to Spotlight as early as mid-April.

Figures for Australia’s gross domestic product, consumption, investment, income and saving in the December 2019 quarter will be released on Wednesday.

Other Australian store closures in the past 12 months

  • Bardot – The women’s fashion retailer announced on January 9 that it would shut 58 stores and make 530 workers redundant. CEO Basil Artemides blamed “an increasingly discount-driven market”.
  • Curious Planet – The science store formerly known as Australian Geographic announced on January 13 that it would close all 63 of its stores, after a two-month sales campaign failed to lure a buyer.
  • Criniti’s – The Italian restaurant chain told employees in November 2019 that it had entered voluntary administration, with several of its 13 sites on the chopping board.
  • Dimmeys – November 2019 also saw the demise of discount retailer Dimmeys, after 166 years of trading.
  • Ed Harry – The menswear retailer went out of business in January 2019, closing all 87 outlets.
  • EB Games – The video game retailer announced last week that it would shut 19 stores before February.
  • Karen Millen – British-based fashion retailer Karen Millen shut all seven of its stand-alone retail stores in September. Roughly 80 people lost their jobs.
  • McWilliam’s Wines – One of the country’s oldest wine families went into administration last week, after more than 143 years of trading. Documents filed to the corporate regulator showed the company made a $5.4 million loss in 2018, mainly thanks to high sales and marketing costs.
  • Muscle Coach – The health and fitness company went into voluntary administration after racking up debts of almost $1 million. The business has since been sold.
  • Napoleon Perdis – Loss of market share to Jo Horgan’s Mecca Cosmetica and LVMH’s Sephora saw the cosmetics brand go into voluntary administration at the beginning of 2019.
  • Red Rooster – Roughly 100 Queeslanders lost their jobs after the fast food chain closed seven local stores in October 2019.

-with agencies

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