On to the next one – Office is plotting the closure of up to half its UK stores as it becomes the latest chain to confront the impact of brutal high street trading.
Sky News has learnt that the South African-owned company is drawing up plans to axe dozens of its 100 shops as their leases expire in the next few years.
Office has been exploring a restructuring plan for the last few weeks, but is no longer considering implementing the closures through a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) – a frequently used mechanism to deliver store closures and rent cuts.
Sources said on Friday that Truworths International, Office’s owner since 2015, was likely to finalise its plans for the chain in the near future.
Decisions about some stores’ future would be taken as they approached the end of their leases, the sources added.
Those which are earmarked for closure will not shut immediately.
Johannesburg-listed Truworths is scheduled to report full-year results next week.
A spokesperson for Office said: “We have no immediate plans to close down stores.
“We remain in discussions with our lenders and talks are progressing well.”
Office’s lenders are being advised by Deloitte, the big four accountancy firm.
Truworths bought the Office chain in 2015 in a deal worth about £250m.
In addition to its UK estate, it trades from stores in Germany and Ireland.
It was unclear on Monday whether Office’s overseas shops would be affected by the restructuring programme.
The pursuit of shop closures makes Office the latest in a deluge of fashion and other retailers to be forced to reduce their high street footprints amid a slew of bankruptcies.
Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia Group, which owns Top Shop and Burton, recently saw a CVA approved but is awaiting the outcome of a legal challenge.