Hundreds of jobs at risk as LK Bennett prepares to call in administrators
Womenswear retailer LK Bennett is set to file for administration, putting up to 500 jobs at risk.
The brand is expected to appoint administrators at Ernst & Young if it cannot find a new backer in the next few days.
Staff were informed of the news on Friday in an email from LK Bennett founder Linda Bennett.
The firm has two stores in the province, one in Victoria Square, Belfast and the other at the Boulevard at Banbridge.
Ms Bennett stepped back from the brand in 2008 but returned in 2017 as a consultant.
Later that year she bought back the controlling stake previously held by Phoenix Equity Partners.
According to the most recent available accounts for the company, Ms Bennett invested £11.2 million into the group upon her return to ownership.
They showed a loss before tax of £47.9 million for the year to July 29 2017.
It emerged last month the company had hired advisers to look at options for the business, including fresh investment or a full sale.
But the company will now be put into the hands of administrators, throwing the future of 41 stores and at least 480 employees into doubt.
Known for its signature kitten heels and smart daywear, the brand has attracted celebrity fans including the Duchess of Cambridge over its near 30-year history.
It is the latest in a string of mid-market women’s fashion labels to buckle under the pressure of dwindling high street sales.
Last year, Irish designer Orla Kiely closed five retail stores as the fashion brand went into liquidation.
Meanwhile, department store House of Fraser, which stocks the LK Bennett brand, went into administration last year before being bought out by Sports Direct tycoon Mike Ashley.