TM Lewin stores will disappear from the high street after it became the latest retailer to collapse into administration at the cost of 600 jobs.
The shirt-maker’s assets have been bought back by its owner Torque Brands, an investment vehicle for private equity firm Stonebridge, previously SCP, through a pre-pack deal – but not its 66 shops, The Telegraph can reveal.
The move comes a month after Torque acquired the retailer from Bain, the investment firm. The brand, which first opened in Mayfair in 1898, will live on online.
The company said it could not afford the rent bill and other costs for its stores, which have all been shut since March. It has blamed the pandemic for its decision to move away from physical outlets.
“This has forced our hands to focus on a radical overhaul of the business model, rebuilding from the ground up in a fashion we deem fit for the years to come,” a spokesperson said.
A long-serving TM Lewin employee said: “What's annoying is that they've blamed it on Covid, which is complete b*******. You don't buy a company during Covid and then turn around and blame Covid for the demise of the brand.”
Staff were told they were being made redundant on two conference calls, for shop floor employees and head office staff respectively.
The meetings were hosted by James Doyan, the chief of transformation at Torque, and the administrator.
Staff were given 25 minutes notice to join the call at 1.20pm. Only about 130 were on the call, one attendee said.
Another employee said he was “disgusted” by how the redundancy process had been handled, and that its collapse would have a knock-on effect on other suppliers.
Torque is led by Simba Sleep co-founder James Cox and is backed by former Asda boss Allan Leighton and Paul Taylor, who previously ran Harrods.
It plans to build a stable of brands that can be rolled out worldwide, which otherwise would have little chance of surviving the pandemic on their own.
They will all use the same IT, manufacturing and distribution systems to minimise costs.
Torque worked with advisors at ReSolve on the pre-pack deal, where a company jettisons its debts, which was first reported by The Sunday Times.
TM Lewin is the latest high street name to go online only. Karen Millen, Coast, Oasis, Warehouse and Laura Ashley are all selling their wares online after going bust in recent months.
Cath Kidston and Virgin Media have also bid farewell to the high street.
The Torque spokesperson added: “We are committed to selling quality tailoring to a global audience, but crucially in a financially sustainable fashion.
“The decision to significantly reduce the scale of the business in order to preserve its future will regrettably result in job losses as a direct result of the closing of the store network as we right-size the business.”