Finance Consumer Smiggle, Just Jeans operator to reopen Australian, NZ shops

Smiggle, Just Jeans operator to reopen Australian, NZ shops

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Premier Investments owns several high street brands, including Smiggle. Photo: AAP
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Smiggle, Just Jeans and Peter Alexander shops will open across Australia and New Zealand this week – although the brands’ owner warns some might not remain open for long.

Premier Investments – which also owns women’s fashion chains Portmans and Jacqui E – will reopen all its remaining Australian stores from May 15 and New Zealand outlets from May 14.

The shops were temporarily shut on March 26 after federal and state governments introduced strict social distancing measures to halt the spread of coronavirus.

The closure meant 9000 staff worldwide were stood down without pay. The Australian staff were among tens of thousands of retail workers to be stood down or lose their jobs as businesses closed their doors amid prohibitive coronavirus restrictions.

Premier said its in-store sales were down 99 per cent for the six weeks to May 6 – while online sales surged by 99 per cent.

Total sales were down 74 per cent across the company’s seven brands.

E-commerce sales at luxury pyjama brand Peter Alexander had even outpaced 2019’s total sales across online and its entire 122-store and concession network in Australia, the company said.

It’s the same in New Zealand, with online sales for the nine days to May 6 up 52 per cent compared with online and retail store sales a year ago.

The company seemed stunned by the results, twice using the word “incredibly” to describe the e-commerce sales figures.

“Prior to the global health crisis, customers were already increasingly electing to shop online,” Premier Investments said on Tuesday.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly increased that existing trend and could hasten the substantial retail restructure already underway.”

The company noted its online business had a significantly higher profit margin than its physical store network.

When it shut its shops in March, Premier said it would not pay rent on its shops for the period, citing “extraordinary circumstances”.

It said it saw e-commerce sales continuing to grow, while in-store shopping will continue to be bound by strict social distancing rules and health guidelines.

The company noted that almost 70 per cent of Premier Retails shops in Australia and New Zealand were in holdover or had leases expiring in 2020, giving the company “maximum flexibility” over possible store closures.

Premier Investments – which is owned by billionaire retail mogul Solomon Lew – reopened most of its stores in Queensland and the Northern Territory on May 7, following the easing of restrictions there. The remainder will follow this week.

It joins other retailers opening bricks-and-mortar outlets as the coronavirus outbreak wanes in Australia and New Zealand.

Outdoor retailer Kathmandu reopened last week, joining Myer and the owners of high street brands such as Athlete’s Foot, Clarks and Mossimo in a return to traditional shopping. All have reported booms in online sales during coronavirus lockdowns.

-with AAP