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Marks & Spencer Buys Clothing Label Jaeger Out of Administration

Samantha Conti
·3 min read

LONDON — In a widely anticipated move, Marks & Spencer is buying the heritage British clothing brand Jaeger out of administration.

In a bid to upgrade its clothing offer and compete with high street giants such as Zara and H&M, M&S has begun stocking young and trendy third-party brands such as Nobody’s Child and Ghost. Jaeger marks its first acquisition of a stand-alone clothing brand.

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Richard Price, managing director of the M&S clothing and home division, said after the market closed on Monday: “We have set out our plans to sell complementary third-party brands as part of our Never the Same Again program to accelerate our transformation and turbo-charge online growth.

“In line with this, we have bought the Jaeger brand and are in the final stages of agreeing the purchase of product and supporting marketing assets from the administrators of Jaeger Retail Limited. We expect to fully complete later this month,” he said.

It is understood that M&S will not be buying the Jaeger retail operations, which have dwindled down to 76 stores and concessions and about 350 staff. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Jaeger’s parent Edinburgh Woollen Mill collapsed into administration last year, with the group’s Dubai-based billionaire owner Philip Day blaming the company’s woes on COVID-19, and lockdown measures that forced stores to close.

Jaeger was the flagship label in the group, which also included the mass market brands Austin Reed, Peacocks and Jane Norman, all of which were struggling to survive even before the pandemic due to their heavy reliance on brick-and-mortar stores, lack of robust e-commerce channels, and lackluster offerings. Both Jaeger and Austin Reed had been struggling for decades to reinvent themselves and attract younger customers, but consistently failed to move away from their outdated images.

In 2017, Day purchased Jaeger out of administration. Its former owner, the private equity firm Private Capital, lost millions on the brand.

The Edinburgh Woollen Mill brands are not the only British clothing names whose struggles have been exacerbated by the coronavirus. Arcadia filed for bankruptcy last year, and administrators are in the process of selling off the brands one by one.

Last month, Arcadia’s plus-size brand Evans was sold to Australia’s City Chic Collective for 23 million pounds. Administrator Deloitte is expected to reveal buyers for brands including Topshop Topman later this month.

M&S, meanwhile, has been battling its own demons on the clothing front, making an effort to sort out sourcing and supply chain issues, and bringing in new brands in a bid to attract younger customers who shop online.

As reported, in the third quarter M&S’s clothing and home business suffered mainly from an in-store sales decline of 46.5 percent, partly offset by strong online sales growth of 47.5 percent, the company said.

During lockdown, M&S retail stores had to cordon off large parts of the shop floor that housed men’s, women’s and children’s clothing, accessories and footwear.

The company said that during the three-month period, the sales mix remained “heavily biased” to COVID-19-influenced product such as sleepwear and leisurewear. The store said major seasonal promotions were removed during lockdown and, as a result, full-price sales were higher than in recent quarters. Online orders overall more than doubled in the period.