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Fresh blow for high street as Simply Be owner N Brown opts to close all its stores

Ayesha Javed
The move will affect the retailer’s 20 stores and puts 270 jobs at risk

N Brown, the company that owns Simply Be and Jacamo, is considering closing its remaining shops and becoming an online-only retailer as it suffers from declining footfall on the high street.

The move will affect the retailer’s 20 stores and put 270 jobs at risk. N Brown said it expects consultations with staff to be completed by October.

The plan to close the stores, which generated only 2pc of N Brown’s revenue last year, will cost between £18m and £22m. The store estate made a £3m loss before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation.

Angela Spindler, chief executive, said: “This action has not been taken lightly and we will do all we can to support the colleagues affected during this process.”

She added: "This was a challenging period for fashion retail.”

More than 800 potential retail store closures announced in 2018

Britain's high streets have been pummelled by declining footfall as shoppers opt to shop online. Poundworld went into administration this week, putting 5,100 jobs at risk, while House of Fraser is planning a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) that puts 6,000 roles on the line.

New Look, Carpetright and Mothercare have taken a similar route. These high profile casualties come after the recent demise of Maplin and Toys R Us.

Russ Mould of AJ Bell said: “It’s a sign of changing times that retailers are brave enough to reshape their business to match how consumers buy goods today and not feel compelled to keep ailing stores alive simply because that channel is traditionally how items were sold in the past. It seems inevitable that many other retailers will follow suit in time."

He said that the retailer makes 75pc of its sales online and three quarters of those are made via mobile devices. The company makes the remainder of its money in areas such as customer credit.

That part of the business had a 9pc revenue growth uplift in the first quarter of the year, offsetting a 2.8pc contraction in its product arm, bringing group revenue growth to just 0.4pc.

Mr Mould said: “If few people are visiting stores, why keep them open? On one hand, they help to keep the brand in front of the public and act as a showcase for a retailer’s products. On the other hand, they incur costs which may not be justified if the returns are inferior."

N Brown shares slipped 1.5pc in lunchtime trade to 194p.