Whistles recorded a £2.9m loss before its takeover by South Africa's Foschini Group earlier this year

Rebecca Smith
A Whistles show at London Fashion Week
A Whistles show at London Fashion Week (Source: Getty)

Upmarket womenswear retailer Whistles recorded a loss of £2.9m ahead of its takeover by South Africa’s Foschini Group in March.

Accounts filed at Companies House show that in the 12 months up to 30 January, Whistles's earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) fell from a profit of £1.9m in 2015 to a loss of £2.9m. The retailer posted an operating loss of £5.7m (an increase of 379 per cent from £1.2m the year before).

The retailer blamed a “difficult retail trading environment" and noted promotional events like Black Friday and its main sale under-performing compared to last year.

Read more: Whistles bought out by Phase Eight parent The Foschini Group

Online proved a bright spot for the company; its e-commerce sales were up 18 per cent. Retail sales fell back on the prior period and "due to the high fixed cost base of stores" this hit the profitability of the business, with retail contribution back £3m on last year.

The Foschini Group, which also owns Whistles’ rival Phase Eight, bought the premium retailer in March this year. It owns 20 brands and has a footprint of more than 2,700 stores.

At the time of the takeover by the Foschini Group, chief executive Jane Shepherdson had retained her 20 per cent stake and said she was committed to staying at the firm.

But in September, the former Topshop boss stepped down from her role at Whistles, eight years after leading a buy-out of the brand. She had helped transform the business into a well-regarded brand on the high street and was rewarded with a CBE in 2014 for services to UK retail business.

Read more: Black Friday: Here are the deals retailers are planning

Shepherdson was replaced by a team led by brand director Helen Williamson, managing director Justin Hampshire and creative director Nick Passmore.

Whistles owns 46 standalone stores and 74 concessions within a range of department stores, including Selfridges and Harvey Nichols.

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