January 28, 2023

First Washington News

We Do Spectacular General & News

Next buys Joules: Chain beloved by Kate Middleton, Holly Willoughby and Taylor Swift is saved

Administrators for Joules will shut 19 shops today after the fashion brand was bought in a rescue deal by retailer Next and founder Tom Joule.

The chain, beloved by Kate Middleton, Holly Willoughby and Taylor Swift had been plunged into administration — putting 1,600 jobs and 132 shops at risk.

But today Next said that it plans to continue to run around 100 of Joules’ 124 stores and confirmed that 19 stores are set to be shut by administrators on Thursday.

The deal will see Next own a 74% stake in the business, with Tom Joule owning the remaining 26% share.

Next has become quite the last-minute rescuer, buying Made.com as well last month.

Holly Willoughby is among Joules’ celebrity fans. She is pictured here wearing a black and white Joules maxi dress in 2020 

Taylor Swift has also been seen wearing Joules, including in this undated photo shared by a fan

Taylor Swift has also been seen wearing Joules, including in this undated photo shared by a fan 

The company drafted in experts from Interpath Advisory last month after failing to secure emergency funding following a surge in costs and slowdown in customers demand.

Next and Tom Joule beat competition from South African firm Foschini Group, which owns the Whistles and Phase Eight brands.

Joules has been bought for £34 million, with Next also snapping up Joules’s head office in Market Harborough for £7 million.

Chief executive officer Jonathon Brown will continue to lead Joules, with Next saying the brand will retain management autonomy.

Next said most Joules staff will remain with the business in the long term and confirmed plans to shift Joules on to its Next Total platform system.

Tom Joule said: ‘After three years away from the operational side, I’m truly looking forward to inspiring teams with clear direction to excite and recapture the imagination of the customer again.

‘I’m so pleased that we have been able to strike a deal that protects the future of the company for all its loyal customers, its employees and also for the town of Market Harborough, which have been so central to Joules’s success.’

Mia Tindall in a striped Joules top at the Gatcombe Horse Trials at Gatcombe Park on March 25, 2017

Mia Tindall in a striped Joules top at the Gatcombe Horse Trials at Gatcombe Park on March 25, 2017 

Will Wright, joint administrator and head of restructuring at Interpath, said: ‘We are pleased to have concluded this transaction, which secures the future of this great British brand, as well as safeguarding a significant number of jobs.

‘To have achieved this in such a short timetable is testament to the support we’ve received from employees, suppliers and other key stakeholders throughout the administration process, so we’d like to express our profound thanks to everyone involved.’

Next chief executive Lord Simon Wolfson said: ‘We are excited to see what can be achieved through the combination of Joules’s exceptional product, marketing and brand building skills with Next’s Total Platform infrastructure.’   

Joules has been struggling with its finances, profitability and cash generation as consumers turn cautious about discretionary spending amid a cost of living crisis.

The administrators had said the business would continue to trade and shops will stay open while they ‘assess options for the business, including exploring the possibility of a sale as a going concern’.

The Joules share price has collapsed in recent months after its profits were hammered by cost of living pressures and rising energy bills

The Joules share price has collapsed in recent months after its profits were hammered by cost of living pressures and rising energy bills 

Originally established as Joule & Sons in 1977 by his father Ian, Tom took over the family business in 1989 (pictured). Tom said today: 'I'm so pleased that we have been able to strike a deal that protects the future of the company for all its loyal customers'

Originally established as Joule & Sons in 1977 by his father Ian, Tom took over the family business in 1989 (pictured). Tom said today: ‘I’m so pleased that we have been able to strike a deal that protects the future of the company for all its loyal customers’

The full list of Joules shops that will close on Thursday

Carmarthen

Cheltenham

Chichester

Edinburgh

Exeter

Gateshead

Lyme Regis

Newbury

Northcote Road

Oxford Peak Village

Peterborough

Reigate

Salcombe

Fore Street

Sherborne

Southwold

St Davids

Waterloo

Watford 

Interpath added that it has witnessed ‘overwhelming’ interest from potential suitors to snap up the brand and its assets since revealing plans to enter insolvency.

The posh wellies brand has counted Holly Willoughby, Kate Middleton, Prince William and Taylor Swift among its famous fans, but has become less popular in recent years, according to experts. 

In November Next bought collapsed Made.com out of administration for £3.4million – but some 400 staff have still lost their jobs and 12,000 people still left with unfulfilled orders often worth thousands of pounds each.

The high street giant yesterday snapped up the online furniture retailer in a so-called pre-pack administration.

The deal – a little over a year after Made was valued at £775million when it joined the stock market in London – saves a much-loved British brand set up in 2010 by Ning Li, Brent Hoberman, Chloe Macintosh, and Julien Callede.

It comes as the UK’s economy shrank by 0.2 percent in the last quarter, figures revealed this week. 

Stylist Miranda Holder said Joules has been ‘unable to keep up with the ever changing times’ and has been left ‘feeling Mumsy and dated’ with ‘uninspiring designs.’ 

She explained: ‘Joules as a brand conjures up the best of British – dependable, quality basics which sell ‘classic with a country twist’ – the fashion equivalent of the ‘stiff upper lip’ upon which this nation prides itself – or more accurately used to pride itself – which is perhaps exactly where the problem lies; the retailer’s inability to keep up with ever changing times.

‘Since it was founded in 1991, Joules has provided a solid foundation to an increasingly volatile British High Street and its appeal hasn’t been limited to UK shores. 

‘Before her Royal wardrobe became more sophisticated, Kate Middleton used to be a fan, which earned the brand a loyal following with avid Royalists stateside, even Pop Princess Taylor Swift has tapped into the English country chic ideal by wearing a few pieces.

The posh wellies brand ¿ which counts Kate Middleton, Prince William and Taylor Swift among its famous fans ¿ initially said talks over an emergency cash-call with investors had failed

The posh wellies brand – which counts Kate Middleton, Prince William and Taylor Swift among its famous fans – initially said talks over an emergency cash-call with investors had failed 

The retailer has been struggling with its finances, profitability and cash generation as consumers turn cautious about discretionary spending amid a cost of living crisis. File image

The retailer has been struggling with its finances, profitability and cash generation as consumers turn cautious about discretionary spending amid a cost of living crisis. File image

‘Despite these celebrity accolades, and many years of producing well made, quality pieces at the premium end of the high street prices, the brand has failed to evolve over the years leaving its offering feeling just a little Mumsy and dated.’

Joules is the latest retailer to hit the buffers after online furniture business Made.com collapsed last week, with rival Next buying up its brand, websites and intellectual property. 

The deal led to 320 redundancies at Made, while a further 79 employees who had already resigned and were working out their notice were forced to leave the business immediately. 

On Monday, experts suggested the ‘one-time darling of the outdoor set’ had also been harmed by a failure to ‘move with the times’ — prompting customers to spend their money elsewhere.

‘It had become stuck in a rut – as athleisure wear took over as the casual clothes for the younger generation and even Joules’ core customers started falling out of love with the staples of its floral and fashion ranges,’ said Susannah Streeter at Hargreaves Lansdown.

High Street fashion retailer Joules (pictured: Library image) had called in advisers after a dramatic share price drop over the past year

High Street fashion retailer Joules (pictured: Library image) had called in advisers after a dramatic share price drop over the past year

Marks and Spencer boss says businesses are suffering ‘daylight robbery’ amid energy crisis

In another sign of the headwinds facing the High Street, Marks & Spencer revealed last week it was braced to spend £100million more on energy next year.

Boss Stuart Machin wants the Chancellor to slash business rates, which are a huge burden on retailers. The projected increase in fuel costs next year follows a £40million increase this year, denting profits.

Store chains are increasingly fearful over spiralling costs – made even worse by a hike in business rates, which are due to rise 10 per cent next year, leaving companies to pay an extra £2.7billion in total.

Machin, credited with playing a major role in the fashion and food group’s ongoing revival, wants an overhaul of the business rates system. 

He branded the current levy ‘daylight robbery’.

‘It can be hard for a brand based on British heritage to move with the times but Joules’ demise shows, fast moving fashion trends can cause serious damage to slow coaches. 

‘The effect of consumers tightening their belts will have caused deeper damage to the company’s furniture and accessories business Garden Trading, as spending on revamped rooms and outdoor spaces has been cut back.’ 

Despite its problems, Ms Streeter predicted there was likely to be ‘significant interest’ in acquiring the Joules brand and its intellectual property. 

‘The Joules brand is still strong, and although it will need a modern twist to help it survive longer term, there is likely to be significant interest in the name and the intellectual property,’ she said. 

The slump in consumer confidence may be around for some time, with average energy bills set to rise by £900 as the government’s cap ends and council tax is almost certain to soar.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is poised to confirm the end of the blanket subsidies on energy prices when he delivers a grim Autumn Statement on Thursday.

It will be part of an ‘eye-watering’ package of savings and tax rises to fill a black hole of up to £60million in the government finances.

The estimated £3,000 energy bill cap from next spring is £500 above the current ‘guarantee’ introduced by Liz Truss, which was originally supposed to last for two years, and almost treble the £1,042 average in April 2020.

Data showed the number of company insolvencies in England and Wales hit its highest level in almost 13 years in the period from April to June this year as surging energy prices took their toll on business.    

Next had also been in talks with Joules over a deal to buy a minority stake in the business, but discussions between the two collapsed in September.

Joules then revealed it was in talks over a so-called cornerstone equity raise with strategic investors including Mr Joule — who recently returned to the firm in an executive position as product director.

It was also holding discussions with Mr Joule and its lender over a possible bridge financing deal to allow the funding talks to continue, but failed to secure the crucial strategic investment needed.

At the same time, the group was considering the option of a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) – which typically involves a firm agreeing delayed or reduced payments to landlords or other creditors – as part of a restructuring to turn around its fortunes.

Mr Joule founded the eponymous firm in 1989, when he began selling clothing on a stand at a country show in Leicestershire. 

It has suffered a slump in shares over the past year following profit warnings amid soaring costs and a downturn in consumer spending.

Lisa Byfield-Green, Retail Week’s data and insights director, said she expected more High Street brands to go under due to the tough economic conditions. 

‘Investors are nervous right now in the difficult economic environment. Companies are also receiving no relief from rising business rates, which puts many high street businesses in danger,’ she said. 

‘We expect to see the continuation of these difficulties into 2023. As the strain continues to mount, smaller and struggling retailers will be snapped up by larger brands (e.g. Next acquiring Made) or fall into administration. The market will diverge between success stories and those that cannot sustain the weight of the mounting cost of doing business.

‘Retailers will need to take decisive action to lean into their existing proposition and strip back operational overheads or diversify beyond retail to generate new revenue streams. Sadly, we anticipate that more retailers are likely to fall victim to the intense economic pressures.’ 

In July, the High Street fashion retailer called in advisers after a dramatic share price drop.

The posh wellies chain, which also trades online through its website, enlisted the help of major accounting firm KPMG to look at bolstering its finances. 

The firm said it has hired KPMG to help with plans to boost profits and shore up its balance sheet back in July. 

KPMG was said to be exploring options, including raising fresh capital, after inflationary pressures drained the retailer’s cash reserves.

In a statement at the time, Joules said: ‘The group continues to focus on improving profitability, cash generation and liquidity headroom.’ 

It came after the firm’s boss, Nick Jones, said would step down in the first half of its next financial year.

The firm's boss, Nick Jones (pictured), previously said would step down in the first half of its next financial year

The firm’s boss, Nick Jones (pictured), previously said would step down in the first half of its next financial year

The company, launched in 1989 as a brand selling clothing and homeware products inspired by British country lifestyles, has like many High Street retailers suffered from a change in shopping habits sparked during the Covid lockdowns from 2020 and 2021.  

In July, the group insisted debt levels remained within its banking agreements and as expected by management.

It said: ‘Whilst the group continues to manage its cash resources carefully over its seasonal borrowing peak, it expects to have sufficient liquidity to manage its working capital requirements over this time.

‘The group is making good progress against previously announced key initiatives aimed at simplifying the business and optimising the cost base to improve long-term profitability.

‘This includes implementing significant changes to its wholesale operations to focus on fewer, profitable wholesale accounts and improving and simplifying the group’s end-to-end product process to reduce costs and shorten lead times.’

Its May trading update saw it warn that ‘challenging’ market conditions and weak consumer confidence had affected trading.

Joules added that reduced demand for full-price items had hit profit margins across its owns channels, while it said profits would be knocked by ‘subdued’ demand for home and garden products.

Third-party sales had also been weaker than expected across some key UK accounts, it said at the time. 

Earlier this year Joules said it had been severely impacted by rising costs and stock disruption in the nine weeks to the end of January.

Revenues were up 31 per cent and 19 per cent against 2021 and 2020 levels during the period, but Joules acknowledged these sales, in addition to profits, were ‘behind the board’s expectations’.

In efforts to counter ‘pressures on profitability’, Joules told investors it was practicing ‘cost restraint’ in marketing, head office and capex, liquidating ‘aged and slow-moving stock’, and simplifying wholesale operations.

The group, which sells clothes, shoes, homeware and garden furniture, had initially enjoyed a strong bounce back from lockdown conditions, boosting profit forecasts in June last year as it benefited from Britons’ desire to get back to nature and spruce up their homes and gardens during the pandemic.

Where did it all go wrong for Joules? ‘Mumsy’ label beloved by Princess of Wales, Holly Willoughby and even Taylor Swift ‘never evolved beyond classic with a country twist’ and became ‘uninspiring’, stylists reveal

By Harriet Johnston for MailOnline

It’s a brand that was once said to be such a favourite with the royals that the Prince and Princess of Wales’ dog Lupo slept on one of the label’s beds. 

But today the fashion retailer Joules was preparing to appoint administrators after being hammered by soaring energy costs and a slump in consumer spending – with 1,600 jobs and 132 stores now under threat. 

The label – famous for its posh wellies – said talks over an emergency cash-call with investors including its founder Tom Joule were unsuccessful and have ended.

Originally established as Joule & Sons in 1977 by his father Ian, Tom took over the family business in 1989. 

It became known for its raincoats, gilets and floral dresses that were loved by well-heeled country types and yummy mummies, with celebrity fans including Holly Willoughby, Martine McCutcheon and even Taylor Swift. 

Meanwhile royals including Kate Middleton and Zara Tindall are also believed to be fans of the brand. 

Stylist Miranda Holder told FEMAIL the retailer was ‘unable to keep up with the ever changing times’ and has been left ‘feeling Mumsy and dated’ with ‘uninspiring designs.’ 

Today the fashion retailer Joules was preparing to appoint administrators after being hammered by soaring energy costs and a slump in consumer spending - despite having a host of celebrity fans including Martine McCutcheon

Today the fashion retailer Joules was preparing to appoint administrators after being hammered by soaring energy costs and a slump in consumer spending – despite having a host of celebrity fans including Martine McCutcheon 

Meanwhile former Love Island presenter Laura Whitmore was also a fan of the brand, having previously been seen out and about in one of the labels' colourful jumpers

Meanwhile former Love Island presenter Laura Whitmore was also a fan of the brand, having previously been seen out and about in one of the labels’ colourful jumpers 

She explained: ‘Joules as a brand conjures up the best of British – dependable, quality basics which sell ‘classic with a country twist’ – the fashion equivalent of the ‘stiff upper lip’ upon which this nation prides itself – or more accurately used to pride itself – which is perhaps exactly where the problem lies; the retailer’s inability to keep up with ever changing times.

‘Since it was founded in 1991, Joules has provided a solid foundation to an increasingly volatile British High Street and its appeal hasn’t been limited to UK shores. 

‘Before her Royal wardrobe became more sophisticated, Kate Middleton used to be a fan, which earned the brand a loyal following with avid Royalists stateside, even Pop Princess Taylor Swift has tapped into the English country chic ideal by wearing a few pieces.

‘Despite these celebrity accolades, and many years of producing well made, quality pieces at the premium end of the high street prices, the brand has failed to evolve over the years leaving its offering feeling just a little Mumsy and dated. 

Meanwhile ITV presenter Holly Willoughby is such a fan of the label that she has worn it on This Morning in the past

Meanwhile ITV presenter Holly Willoughby is such a fan of the label that she has worn it on This Morning in the past 

‘Predictable and uninspiring are words that come to mind when viewing the latest collections… their Breton tops used to be top notch, and there is absolutely a place for a classic Breton Tee in even the most fashion-forward go wardrobes… but I’d rather buy one in a more contemporary silhouette.

‘Besides feeling old-fashioned I think Joules hedged its bets in terms of where it belonged amongst similar English country clothing brands. 

‘Despite prices being relatively steep for the high street there were frequent offers and bargain deals which diffused its quality appeal.

‘Add to that its concessions in anywhere from garden centres to retail giant Next, and suddenly the brand doesn’t feel very premium at all, rendering it even more unappealing for its price point.’ 

Celebrity stylist Rochelle White agreed, saying the brand had ‘lost its way’ and didn’t ‘tap into’ the millennial market enough.

She said: ‘I feel that Joules is sadly another retailer that lost its way in regards to building brand loyalty with customers and being forward thinking in how they keep their current customer engaged.

‘Brands that have heritage, a look and feel that did work for them in the past usually get comfortable in doing the same thing that worked in the past. 

‘Although they are aimed and targeted as a family luxury brand, they didn’t really create or speak to their sub audiences. 

‘They could have tapped into the fans of the brand like Kate Middleton as inspiration to reach a wider audience and leverage/recreate looks that drive inspiration and aspirational goals.  

‘There are many brands out there that do this well. They could have taken advantage to work with content creators on limited collections or even push seasonal trends.

‘I feel that also the overall economy is a fact in this due to rising costs and customers shopping behaviour being different. 

‘They could of look at other or similar brands and created trends, looks and content that could of reach wider audiences.’

Meanwhile Great British Bake Off contestant Laura Adlington has also been a fan of the brand over the years

Meanwhile Great British Bake Off contestant Laura Adlington has also been a fan of the brand over the years 

Joule & Sons originally sold branded clothing and accessories at equestrian and country shows.

But while still in his early twenties, Tom Joule spotted a gap in the market and realised the country set wanted an alternative to dowdy tweeds.

He bought 100 pink wellies and sold out when he debuted them at a small horse show in Leicestershire.

Mr Joule has said he was inspired to design and manufacture clothing by his mother Jean, who he described as ‘the best dressed woman around’.

Following this early success, he bought a stake in a small textiles factory in China, began producing clothes of his own design and sold them to clothing shops throughout the UK.

The formula worked, as did his bold colours and prints. Eventually the entrepreneur moved on from country fetes and horse shows to open his first shop – next to his father’s cafe in his home town of Market Harborough.

It has also become known for its cheeky men’s underwear which has ‘Crown Joules’ written on the waistbands. 

It gained the Royal seal of approval in February 2015 when Prince William was pictured carrying one of its £74.95 floral print bags while boarding a flight home from Mustique with a heavily pregnant Kate and toddler George in tow. 

Celebrity chef Lisa Faulkner has also been spotted in the brand over the years (pictured), as well as Lorraine Kelly

Celebrity chef Lisa Faulkner has also been spotted in the brand over the years (pictured), as well as Lorraine Kelly

Meanwhile other stars to have worn the brand over the years include Holly WIlloughby, Martine McCutcheon and Laura Whitmore.   

Celebrity chef Lisa Faulkner has also been spotted in the brand over the years, as well as Lorraine Kelly.  

It said it would file a notice of intention to appoint Interpath Advisory as administrators to the firm and its subsidiaries, including online home and garden retailer The Garden Trading Company, ‘as soon as reasonably practicable’. Joules said: ‘The board is taking this action to protect the interests of its creditors.’

The firm will suspend trading of its shares on the stock market due to the decision, adding that further announcements will be made ‘in due course’. It is expected to formally appoint administrators in the next five to 10 working days, but stressed that its stores and websites are continuing to trade as normal.

Joules is the latest retailer to hit the buffers after mail-order fashion brand Boden struggled to make an impact on the British market. 

Next had also been in talks with Joules over a deal to buy a minority stake in the business, but discussions between the two collapsed in September.

Joules then revealed it was in talks over a so-called cornerstone equity raise with strategic investors including Mr Joule – who recently returned to the firm in an executive position as product director.

It was also holding discussions with Mr Joule and its lender over a possible bridge financing deal to allow the funding talks to continue, but failed to secure the crucial strategic investment needed.

At the same time, the group was considering the option of a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) – which typically involves a firm agreeing delayed or reduced payments to landlords or other creditors – as part of a restructuring to turn around its fortunes.

It has suffered a slump in shares over the past year following profit warnings amid soaring costs and a downturn in consumer spending.