COVID-19 has claimed another retail victim with the collapse of TM Lewin’s Australia business this week.
Colby O’Brien, Stewart McCallum and Adam Nikitins from EY were appointed voluntary administrators of the British menswear brand on Wednesday, July 1, following the administration of TM Lewin in the UK.
McCallum called it “another unfortunate example” of the impact of the global pandemic on the retail sector.
In Australia alone, the past four months have seen Seafolly, Tigerlily, Kikki K, PAS Group, Aussie Disposals and G-Star Raw appoint administrators, citing the impact of store closures and poor consumer sentiment on discretionary spending.
TM Lewin, a 122-year-old men’s suiting brand, was also affected by the shift to remote working, which drastically reduced demand for its suits, shirts and ties and decimated foot traffic in CBDs, where its five Australian stores are located.
“The shops had to close because of COVID and management made a decision not to reopen,” McCallum told Inside Retail.
“Our understanding at this stage is that this was due to a number of factors including very few people in the CBDs of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane to buy professional work attire.
“A position regarding rents was also not finalised with the landlords. Those negotiations involved the UK management team.”
Unlike some retailers, TM Lewin Australia wasn’t able to benefit from the rise in online shopping during April and May because the e-commerce channel is owned and operated by TM Lewin in the UK.
McCallum said his team is working with the administrators of TM Lewin in the UK to ensure the Australian business has the best chance of continuing, but said it’s too soon to say whether a restructure or sale is more likely.
“[T]he potential impact on employees, landlords and other creditors remains at the forefront of our thinking,” he said.
TM Lewin Australia employs approximately 40 people in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
Stores remain closed, and McCallum said the team has not yet reached a decision about whether to reopen them during the administration period.
TM Lewin operates 66 stores in the UK. About 90 stores are located outside the UK, including in Europe, Ireland, the US, Australia and Asia, but it is not clear how many of these are company owned as opposed to operating under licensing agreements.