Tie Rack is to begin closing its 44 UK stores, threatening the loss of up to 200 jobs.
The closures mark the end of the neckwear specialist’s tricky 30-year existence. It has been in gradual retreat since its 90s heyday, when it had 450 shops, as men’s fashion has changed and competition has intensified. The chain was launched in the 80s, when most men working in offices and attending special events wore ties. But open necked shirts are now so normal that even the prime minister is often pictured tieless. In recent years just a fifth of the chain’s sales have been men’s ties.
All of Tie Rack’s high street stores will close, while some of its handful of outlets in airports will also be shut down.
A spokesman said: “Following a period of prolonged decline in Tie Rack’s fortunes, it is with regret that we today announce this closing down sale. Management are working with staff to provide support during this difficult time.”
The closing-down sale is expected to begin on Wednesday, with UK shops due to shut their doors for good by the end of the year.
The closures follow the collapse into administration of film and games rental chain Blockbuster and shoe retailer Barratts in recent weeks which have put about 2,000 jobs at risk in the weeks before Christmas. Online fashion store My-wardrobe also restructured via a pre-pack administration.
Like those stores, Tie Rack faces structural challenges beyond the squeeze on consumer spending caused by the economic downturn. Industry experts said Tie Rack had not moved with the times.
Neil Saunders, managing director of retail analysts Conlumino, said: “Tie Rack did well in the 1980s consumer boom but it’s very out of sync with the way people shop now. Men get their ties where they buy their shirts and there is nothing to differentiate Tie Rack, such as high quality or any brand attribute, that would really put it on consumers’ radar.”
The Fingen Group, Tie Rack’s Italian owner, has appointed the accountancy firm Grant Thornton to look for prospective buyers for around 30 overseas stores but will retain ownership of the brand online.
Tie Rack was founded in 1981 by South African entrepreneur Roy Bishko. When the retailer floated on the stock exchange six years later it received £1bn worth of applications for just £12.5m in shares.
It has been in decline since 1998. Accounts for last year show a pre-tax loss of £6.8m on sales of £68.1m.