The founder of Joules has said he hopes the beleaguered fashion brand can “thrive again” despite being poised to collapse into administration in a move putting around 1,600 jobs at risk.
Tom Joule – who launched the eponymous chain in his home town of Market Harborough in Leicestershire in 1989 – apologised to staff and customers for the “unsettling” news that it is set to appoint administrators following a failure to secure a vital cash injection.
He said it was “a deeply disappointing day for Joules, and a sad day for me personally”.
Mr Joule, who recently returned to the firm as product director, said: “Over the last two months I have been back working as part of the new executive leadership team to simplify the business and improve operations.
“Whilst we have made significant progress during this period, regrettably we simply could not make the required changes to the model quickly enough in this challenging environment.
“For our stakeholders, including our customers and our people, we recognise today’s news will be deeply unsettling, and we are sorry for this.”
He added: “It is my hope to be able to continue to play an important role in creating Joules products for our customers that reflect our brand and values.
“It is my strong belief that Joules remains a desirable, differentiated brand that, with the right model and structure, can thrive again.”
The Leicestershire-based chain employs around 1,600 staff and has over 130 shops.
Joules – famous for its posh wellies – said earlier on Thursday that talks over an emergency cash-call with investors including Mr Joule were unsuccessful and have ended.
It said it would file a notice of intention to appoint Interpath Advisory as administrators to the firm and its subsidiaries, including online home and garden retailer The Garden Trading Company, “as soon as reasonably practicable”.
The firm will suspend trading of its shares on the stock market due to the decision, adding that further announcements will be made “in due course”.
Joules said: “The board is taking this action to protect the interests of its creditors.”
It is expected to formally appoint administrators in the next five to 10 working days, but Mr Joule stressed it was “business as usual right now” with the stores and website continuing to trade as normal.
Joules is the latest retailer to hit the buffers after online furniture business Made.com collapsed last week, with rival Next buying up its brand, websites and intellectual property.
The deal led to 320 redundancies at Made, while a further 79 employees who had already resigned and were working out their notice were forced to leave the business immediately.
Next had also been in talks with Joules over a deal to buy a minority stake in the business, but discussions between the two collapsed in September.
Joules then revealed it was in talks over a so-called cornerstone equity raise with strategic investors including Mr Joule – who recently returned to the firm in an executive position as product director.
It was also holding discussions with Mr Joule and its lender over a possible bridge financing deal to allow the funding talks to continue but failed to secure the crucial strategic investment needed.
At the same time, the group was considering the option of a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) – which typically involves a firm agreeing delayed or reduced payments to landlords or other creditors – as part of a restructuring to turn around its fortunes.
It has suffered a slump in shares over the past year following profit warnings amid soaring costs and a downturn in consumer spending.
Mr Joule founded the eponymous firm in 1989, when he began selling clothing on a stand at a country show in Leicestershire.