Footwear chain Office could close stores as part of restructure

The footwear chain Office is considering a restructure that could result in some store closures in the latest sign of tough times on the high street.

The retailer, which has about 100 UK stores and 20 concessions in other stores including Topshop, House of Fraser and Selfridges, suffered a 3% fall in UK sales in the six months to December 2018 as it closed six outlets.

Sources said Office was considering plans for a company voluntary arrangement (CVA), an insolvency process which companies including the Topshop owner, Arcadia, Mothercare and Carpetright have all used to close stores and cut rents.

A CVA is one of a number of options being considered after Office’s owner, the South African retailer Truworths, appointed advisers from the turnaround firm Alvarez & Marsal.

A plan for the UK group, which employs nearly 3,000 people according to accounts filed at Companies House, is expected to be finalised in coming weeks, according to Sky News, which first reported the appointment of Alvarez & Marsal.

Truworths, which is listed on the Johannesburg stock exchange, said online sales rose 7.2% during the six months to 30 December 2018 so that they now made up a third of Office’s sales, reflecting the industry-wide switch to shopping on the internet.

In its interim financial report, Truworths said the UK had a fragile retail economy which was expected to remain under “extreme pressure” amid uncertainty over Brexit but that staff morale at Office was high as sales had risen in the first weeks of the new year.



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