West Midlands-based discount fashion retailer to close its 122 stores after battling losses for several years
Store Twenty One, Waterlooville, Hampshire, UK
Struggling fashion chain Store Twenty One is being liquidated with the loss of 900 retail jobs.
The value clothing retailer, which was based in Solihull in the West Midlands, has entered compulsory liquidation and its 122 stores which ceased trading on Friday will not reopen. The company had been in a precarious financial situation since April when HM Revenue & Customs issued a winding-up notice over unpaid tax.
Store Twenty One, which was owned by Indian textiles company Alok Group, had a chequered financial history and had struggled to adapt as low-cost fashion rivals such as Primark expanded across the UK. In recent years its turnover had declined from £95m to £57m, a performance that was accompanied by sustained losses.
“It is very sad that matters have got to the stage where all the stores were closed by management on Friday following a prolonged period of uncertainty leading up to the liquidation,” said Simon Bonney, a partner at Quantuma, the corporate recovery and business advisory firm that is handling the liquidation.
“We are now in the process of conducting an orderly wind-down and would welcome contact from any interested parties who may wish to purchase assets of the company.”
Store Twenty One started in the 1930s as a manufacturing business supplying retailers including Marks & Spencer. It subsequently opened its own branches, selling seconds, but in the 1980s changed tack, rebranding the chain as QS.
In 1990 QS floated on the London Stock Exchange and went on to acquire sister chain Bewise. It was taken private in 2002 and sold again, to Alok, five years later. It rebranded again as Store Twenty One nearly a decade ago after a restructuring that involved the closure of 140 shops.
But it had been fighting for its survival since management failed to secure fresh investment following a company voluntary arrangement – a type of insolvency proceeding – in July 2016, which saw the closure of about 80 shops. After twice flirting with administration in recent months, the court finally issued a winding-up order this week.
“The traditional retail sector continues to face significant challenges, not least with the changes in business rates,” said Bonney. “The company was founded in 1932 and unfortunately it is another example of the difficulties arising in the current economy.”