The Antler luggage brand that's been owned by Michael Lewis since February is in trouble due to the coronavirus crisis, according to a news report this week.
The Times said that Lewis has called in restructuring advisors from KPMG after sales plummeted due to store opening restrictions and the almost complete standstill in international travel in recent months.
Lewis’s Strandbags company bought the brand from turnaround firm Endless for an undisclosed sum at the worst possible time. The company’s products, which sell at a premium-to-high-end price level, are stocked in major department stores as well as at travel hubs.
And like a number of other major luggage brands, prior to the pandemic, it could have had a rosy future. But with international travel at a minimal level currently and likely to stay low for more than a year, luggage brands are among the labels facing the most challenges.
It was clearly unfortunate timing for the purchase of the brand, which has been in existence for more than 100 years. Although it made losses in the last year for which accounts are available (2018), those losses were less than £4 million on sales of £32.5 million. That suggested a turnaround would be possible for the Antler label.
And Lewis has a strong track record at successful companies. His interests include Whistles and Hobbs owner The Foschini Group (TFG), and the aforementioned Australian accessories group Strandbags.
Meanwhile, The Times quoted Mark Hall, chairman of Antler, saying he was “focused on navigating the business successfully through this difficult period. We very much hope there will be a positive outcome.”