There hasn’t been a lot of good news on the high street scene lately with retailers are feeling the crunch from all sides. Between rising costs, tough economic times and online competition for customers, businesses of every description are going bust from the pressure. Amongst many worrisome results, possibly the one that hurts worst is the loss of jobs.
Following on the heels of a virtual storm of bad news about companies in receivership or nearing it comes the report that Store Twenty One is unable to pay the rent. The Telegraph reported on Sunday that at least two of the chain’s stores had been visited by debt-collectors who impounded stock in lieu of payment, and that the website would cease trading as of Monday.
Store Twenty One started out as a manufacturing business, supplying retailers including Marks & Spenser, and sold the manufacturing part of the business when its retail shops grew into a very successful enterprise. What used to be called QS was renamed Store Twenty One when it was bought out by an Indian textile manufacturer in 2007.
The popular store, best known for its line of lingerie designed by model Katie Price, has over 200 stores in the UK, concentrated in the south coast area. The company employs about 1,000 personnel, predominantly young people, all of whose jobs are now at risk. Added to the growing list of retailers that have cut back, restructured or failed entirely, it’s part of a vicious circle; people with reduced income due to loss of a job are even less likely to spend money on non-essentials like designer undies.
Along with all the not-good news, there is an increasing sense of urgency that the ‘powers that be’ do something about it. The British Retail Consortium is telling BRC members to keep after their local MPs to stop business rates rising.
Those rates have gone up by more than 10% in the last two years, with another 2.6% increase set for 2013. BRC Director General Helen Dickinson said the government should “ do the right thing” and freeze business rates to save struggling businesses – and jobs.