// Bonmarché administrators decide how many stores to reopen today, putting hundreds of jobs at risk
// Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group chief operating officer Steve Simpson agreed to take over 72 stores and 531 staff
// Bonmarché was previously part of the group owned by Philip Day
Hundreds of jobs are at risk at Bonmarché as administrators decide how many stores will reopen as non-essential retailers open their doors to the public today.
Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group chief operating officer Steve Simpson agreed to take over 72 stores and 531 staff with backing from an international consortium in December.
Bonmarché was previously part of the group owned by Philip Day, but collapsed in October.
Administrators at RSM have been reviewing the options for the estate during lockdown. Some or all of the remaining 148 stores may never reopen.
The 72 stores taken over by Simpson are poised to reopen today, but the company said the key is whether shoppers will return.
Bonmarché staff have previously said that they were told in January that they would have to wait for six months to find out if their jobs were secure.
RSM partner Damian Webb said the administrators’ efforts were focused on protecting the estate and jobs and they would re-engage with furloughed staff “where sites will be reopening”.
“It is our intention to continue to trade and we are in conversation with a number of stakeholders to explore the options for the business,” he said.
Bonmarché has been in administration three times. It had been struggling with an increase in costs, such as business rates and wages, all exasperated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Last week, Simpson also bought sister brand Peacocks from insolvency specialists at FRP, again with foreign backing.
He is holding on to 200 of the 423 stores it had when it collapsed in November and around 2000 of its 4369 staff.
Meanwhile, Day is providing the financial backing for the management buyout in the form of a deferred loan, while a group of unnamed investors is injecting cash into the business to allow it to restart.
Day is likely to recoup some or all of the cash he invested as a secured creditor thanks to these deals.
Peacocks owes unsecured creditors around £70 million, including £29 million to landlords, £23 million to suppliers and almost £9 million to HMRC.