If anyone was wondering just what motivated Whistles to sell itself to South Africa’s Foschini, results for the year to January 30 give a big clue. The premium women’s and menswear retailer reported pre-tax losses that surged to £15.5m compared to just £2.4m a year earlier.
The retailer, which was run at the time by highly-regarded ex-Topshop brand director Jane Shepherdson, reported the rising loss despite turnover in the 12 months rising 1% to 62.2m.
So what went wrong? The company cited “a difficult retail trading environment” and also blamed the Black Friday promotional event for denting its profits.
However, it said this month that it has seen “pleasing” comparable sales and margin growth so far in 2016 and that it has outperformed a flat UK retail market. It also launched a new initiative last month with the debut of a small bridal collection.
The retailer operates 46 standalone stores and has 74 concessions in department stores. It has this year signed several international expansion contracts, including its first Dubai store in a deal with Al Tayer. It is operating three new Spanish sites in partnership with El Corte Inglés and will open new stores in Abu Dhabi, Switzerland and Hong Kong next year.
Jane Shepherdson took over at womenswear-only Whistles in 2008 when she acquired a 20% stake in the brand from Baugur. She retained the stake when the retailer was sold to Phase Eight owner Foschini in March. But she left the brand in September and handed over the reins to brand director Helen Williamson, MD Justin Hampshire, and creative head Nick Passmore.