Pretty Green Into Administration - What Next For The High Street?
Over the past few years, I've seen my fashion sense change. Yes, it's understandable that times change, but to see a favourite retailer just disintegrate before your eyes is awful. One such retailer is the Liam Gallagher-owned Pretty Green label. Founded in 2006 by the then Oasis frontman, Pretty Green specialised in reviving elements of the mod fashion, with its elaborate paisley patterns and rock-inspired designs intending to turn heads and emanate attitude.
Now, thirteen years later, the brand has fallen into financial troubles and have been handed a lifeline by JD Sports, after speculation that the label would be gobbled up by Mike Ashley's Sports Direct empire. It comes as little surprise that JD Sports have come forward to own the younger Gallagher's fashion label, since JD also own retailer 'Scotts', who have stocked Pretty Green for a few years now. What does come as a surprise is the fact that all eleven Pretty Green high-street stores, barring the flagship in Manchester, immediately closed, leading to scenes like the picture above in London's Carnaby Street. What was once a bustling clothes store, radiating class and brashness, has fallen into disarray, becoming a hangar stockist above all else. Ninety-seven jobs have been lost as a result of these closures, but what is most bizarre is that with no concessions also present (House Of Fraser had these), it becomes increasingly difficult for consumers to actually purchase their clothes. One store to serve the country simply isn't enough - of course, people can buy online, but there's no 'online fitting rooms' - to get a sense of how something looks and indeed fits, you've got to try the clothes on first. I have to say, the overall 'experience' put forward in the stores up and down the country was absolutely brilliant - the staff were chatty and always helpful and moreover, the overall mood of the stores was light with a touch of grunt that obviously comes from their owner.
The brand took on high-profile collaborations with artists such as Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles, creating some absolutely fantastic lines for the two, especially The Beatles with the Sgt. Pepper and White Album collections more recently. These were accompanied by a large launch event at the store in Liverpool, also in conjunction with the Cavern Club, whose resident artists (e.g. John Keats and Jimmy Coburn) often wear Pretty Green clothes. It's something a little different that the brand can have as a competitive advantage over its rivals, along with the different patterns and styles that they stock.
Pretty Green fell victim to the House Of Fraser crash last year - the brand were owed over £500,000 as a result of the incident and this has probably cost them a fair amount of investment funds to expand the business or help its recovery. With thirty-three Pretty Green concessions now lost nationwide, House Of Fraser are also losing out on business and with numerous other brands also losing floor space, it looks like a downward spiral for the department store. It does beg the question though, why don't Pretty Green, now under new owners, look to put the brand in other stores?
I'd guess that the answer is that there aren't many department stores left - Debenhams, for the past few months, has been on the verge of falling off the financial cliff and Pretty Green would have some competition, especially with other men's brands like Ben Sherman and Hackett, whose stocks are at similar price points. John Lewis, another competitor who could stock Pretty Green, saw their profits drop 99% in the first half of last year due to economic uncertainty and whilst they could stock the brand, with the way their profits went last year, it's difficult to see this happening. Department stores in Britain are dying out quickly and before we know it, they'll all be empty, destined to be replaced by offices or small stores in their place.
What does seem strange is that Pretty Green were on an upwards path before hitting administration earlier this year. Whilst they made a £1.5 million pre-tax loss last year, that was drastically up from £5.6 million in losses the previous year; no dividends were paid out. Turnover also jumped up £17 million to £38.2 million last year and with the way the business was going from the outside looking in, it seemed like a profit could be netted this year. With the appointment of Moorfields Advisory, this was the first indication I heard of some form of financial troubles.
It's fair to say that the collapse was coming, with the continuous decline of the high-street and also the challenging financial conditions that businesses are experiencing as a result of Brexit and a lack of investment. All we can hope for is that other upmarket brands don't die out and that the retailers that stock them aren't brought down as a result of financial troubles. Debenhams seems next to meet its maker and with their collapse, we could see the destruction of the department store. Of course, this is not something any consumer wants.