La Senza and Blacks saved from brink

Kasmira Jefford
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IT WAS all change on the high street yesterday after two of the UK’s stricken retailers, lingerie chain La Senza and outdoor sportswear company Blacks Leisure, were rescued from administration.

Retailer JD Sports confirmed yesterday that it had bought all of Blacks’ 290 stores and the bulk of its business from its administrator KPMG in a £20m deal, pipping Dragons’ Den star Peter Jones and rival Sports Direct to the post.

Blacks’ new owner said it will evaluate the performance of each store before it decides how many to close. The future of its Northampton-based head office and warehouse remained unclear.

Meanwhile Kuwait-based retail group Alshaya has snapped up 60 of La Senza’s 146 UK stores from KPMG, who is also acting as La Senza’s administrator, helping to secure 1100 jobs.

KPMG said another 84 stores and 18 concessions had closed, resulting in about 1,300 job losses at the retailer, which was owned by private equity firm Lion Capital.

Alshaya, an international franchise partner for a number of British retail brands including Mothercare, Debenhams, Boots and Next, said it planned to invest about £100m in the business over the next two year.

“This is a strategic investment for us and a positive addition to our extensive international retail portfolio,” executive chairman Mohammed Alshaya said in a statement.

The private family-owned company runs franchises for 55 brands in 19 countries, including in Russia, where it already operates three La Senza stores. The group made its first step in the UK last year when it opened the US frozen yoghurt brand Pinkberry in Selfridges and Westfield Stratford.

Both Blacks and La Senza have been put through a controversial pre-pack administration, where a company continues to trade right up to its sale to a new owner and assets are sold off debt-free.

The companies are the latest in a long line of retailer casualties – including Hawkin’s Bazaar, Past Times and Barratts Shoes – that have collapsed as the crisis in consumer confidence wreaks havoc on the high street.