The optimism surrounding the sale of British menswear brand TM Lewin back in May seems to have been tempered by the new owner telling its landlords that most of its shops could be shut if they don't offer attractive went deals.
The company, which has its roots as a shirtmaker in the 19th century, currently operates 66 UK shops and was bought from Bain capital by SCP Private Equity for an undisclosed sum.
And on Monday, the Times reported that the company has hired commercial property consultant Cedar Dean to inform landlords that a pre-pack administration could happen unless large rent cuts can be agreed.
The newspaper also said that the company wants to continue operating "a handful of shops" and will decide locations depending on the cooperation of landlords.
The business is run through a new entity created by SCP called Torque Brands and its chairman James Cox told the newspaper: “[We] acquired the brand as a going concern. Our specialist team is now working with the company to put processes and procedures in place that will safeguard the future of the business and help it adapt to the rapidly changing retail landscape.”
Torque was created to build a portfolio of British brands that would appeal to shoppers worldwide, with the company still looking out for acquisition opportunities.
And Cox, who led the purchase of upscale slipper brand Mahabis out of administration last year, was joined by ex-Asda boss Allan Leighton (who currently chairs C&A) and ex-Harrods MD Paul Taylor in the venture.
The fact that they were prepared to buy the business as a going concern, including the whole store estate, was seen as good news at the time. However, TM Lewin’s strength in e-sales (30% of its total and adding up to £120m annually) was a clear indication of the importance that the new owners place on web sales.