An ex-Myer boss has come to the rescue to save a popular Aussie fashion retailer from going completely under, it has been announced.
An ex-Myer boss has come to the rescue to save a popular Aussie fashion retailer from going completely under, it has been announced.

Popular Aussie fashion retailer saved

Aussie fashion brand Colette by Colette Hayman has been officially sold out of voluntary administration, with a new owner announced today - but the business's bricks-and-mortar presence has been cut by a third.

The new major shareholder and executive chairman, revealed in an announcement this morning, is ex-Myer and Edcon CEO Bernie Brookes, while John Skellern will be the new CEO.

The new Colette business, owned by the CBCH group of companies, will have just 35 retail outlets across mainland states instead of the 138 stores it had predominantly in Australia and New Zealand before going into administration in January this year.

RELATED: Collapsed fashion giant shuts 33 stores

The new owners of the Colette brand has downgraded its bricks-and-mortar stores by a third. Pictures: Julian Andrews/AAP
The new owners of the Colette brand has downgraded its bricks-and-mortar stores by a third. Pictures: Julian Andrews/AAP

RELATED: $140m Aussie retailer's shock collapse

The downgraded bricks-and-mortar model comprising a store footprint of only one-third of the original stores will include a fledgling online business which the owners say will deliver one-third of the retailer's total revenue.

"Our core offer of handbags and jewellery will continue, with a fresh focus on the strong performing stores retained, and a significant investment in the digital space," Mr Brooks said.

The business will have its own in-house digital, design and marketing team in place "to ensure a focus on online sales and digital".

"Owning a fashion retail chain is about true omnichannel retail; a strong online presence and physical stores," Mr Brooks said.

"My decision to take the majority shareholding will be viewed as contrary to the current difficulties facing bricks-and mortar-retail," he commented.

Mr Brookes added that the purchase "will enable the business to land in a future post COVID-19 in advance of any cessation of lockdowns and restrictions in the future".

The business has retained approximately 300 employees and concluded landlord negotiations to ensure continuity of trade.

"We have developed a strong plan to stabilise and then build the brand while investing in the business," he said. "In addition, we have a strong supplier base who will continue to support Colette including providing much needed fresh stock immediately to stores."

Deloitte Restructuring Services partners Vaughan Strawbridge, Sam Marsden and Jason Tracy were the appointed administrators.

"We are very pleased to have secured the future of this business and jobs for close to 300 employees, including nearly 100 permanent roles," joint voluntary administrator Mr Marsden said.

"The sale of the business to a group of experienced retail investors represents a significant achievement in the current environment, and reflects the strength of the brand and the commitment of the group's employees to its future," he added.

"It follows a robust due diligence process, undertaken in the midst of the market uncertainty brought on by COVID-19, which saw several parties submit offers."

Mr Marsden added that the new owners bring with them "a significant track record in Australian and international retail and are well positioned to reinvigorate the brand".

The network of 35 bricks-and-mortar stores will be operating across Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia, to complement the new online platform.

The brand was founded by designer Colette Hayman - known as the "Queen of Handbags" - in Australia in 2010, and was previously pulling in sales in excess of $140 million.

It exploded to become Australia's biggest handbag empire, with around 180 stores across four countries, including Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Ms Hayman's native South Africa.

"It been a turbulent journey through the heart of COVID-19, but we have witnessed great resilience and tenacity in the Colette management team and employee base, which will be a great asset to the new owner and a new chapter for Colette by Colette Hayman," Mr Marsden said.

The downturn of retail impacted by the pandemic has affected a slew of other high-profile Australian businesses that have folded in 2020. Bardot and Harris Scarfe are among other fashion retailers that have shut stores across the nation this year.

 

Originally published as Popular Aussie fashion retailer saved


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