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Wanted: buyer for a troubled fashion retailer


Jaeger, once a beacon of upmarket retail, was unable to avoid losses last year despite a sales increase.  

The British fashion chain recorded a pre-tax loss of £7.9m in the year to 28 February 2015, down from £9.9m the previous year, accounts filed at Companies House reveal. 

Total sales increased by 6% to £84.2m, while like-for-like sales increased by 8% in the year to 28 February.  

The retailer put this down to mild autumn weather, resulting in further discounting which reduced stock but also hurt gross margin.  

The Womenswear division was up 4% on last year, as strong sales of outerwear and knitwear tempered 15% sales decline in the dresses category. Sales across menswear increased by 15%, boosted by suits (10%) and jackets (31%). 

Jaeger experienced a 42% increase across e-commerce sales, driven by mobile and tablet consumption which contributes to 36% of online sales. In February the retailer launched a new site and is pushing for double digit sales by 2017 off the back of it.  

Private equity firm Better Capital took over Jaeger in 2012, taking on most of its debt and the company's shares as the company fell into administration, a move which concerned former Jaeger boss Harold Tillman.  

Tillman, who ran Jaeger for eight years, has publicly expressed his feelings over the way the retailer has been run since he sold it and has said he would start a rival business to satisfy disappointed Jaeger customers. 

The veteran retailer cited earlier this year that he was “saddened” by the way Better Capital, notorious for the collapse of its CityLink parcels business last year, had handled Jaeger since purchasing it. 

In September, then CEO Colin Henry stepped down two years into his own five-year strategy. Upon his hire in 2013, he forged a game plan to turn around the business. His strategy focused on re-engaging with the core customer, a 40-65 year old affluent female, otherwise known as ‘Mrs Jaeger’. 

His vision was to draw on the brand’s core heritage, thus eliminating loss-making sub brands Jaeger London and Boutique and quadrupling marketing investment to £8m. 

It is understood that there were disagreements over strategy between Henry and Better, leading to his abrupt departure. 

A 131 year-old business, Jaeger is positioned as a premium British fashion brand. Tillman brought in the Jaeger London and Jaeger Boutique brands to attract new, younger customers but Better closed these down, much to Tillman’s dismay. 

There has been speculation that Tillman wants Jaeger back, although it is not known if he is among the parties that have approached Better about buying the brand.  

Published on Tuesday 01 December by Veebs Sabharwal

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