LK Bennett becomes the latest high street fashion victim
LK Bennett - a brand favoured by the Duchess of Cambridge - has collapsed into administration, putting around 500 jobs at risk.
The fashion retailer, known for its smart daywear, attracted celebrity fans over its near 30-year history, including the Duches.
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 group will now be put into the hands of administrators, throwing the future of 39 stores, 37 concessions and at around 500 employees into doubt.
LK Bennett has appointed corporate undertakers at EY to carry out the process.
Some 55 jobs are set to be lost immediately, with the closure of five stores and a reduction in staff numbers at the company’s head office.
The store closures affect branches in Sheffield (Meadowhall), Bristol, Liverpool and London (Brent Cross and Westbourne Grove).
Trading at other stores, including two in Belfast and Banbridge, will continue while administrators seek a buyer, but sales from the company’s website have been temporarily suspended.
This year, the Duchess has been photographed wearing several items from the firm’s range at several public events.
Dan Hurd, joint administrator, said: “LK Bennett is a strong luxury UK brand, the new season collection was critically acclaimed, and recent trading is up, which we hope will be attractive to prospective buyers.”
The firm is owned by founder Linda Bennett, who had 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.
The failure 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, House of Fraser, which stocks the LK Bennett brand, went into administration last year before being bought out by Sports Direct tycoon Mike Ashley.