Brait's struggling UK retailer New Look turning a corner
By Londiwe Buthelezi - Jul 11th, 11:30
Investment holding company Brait says its UK high-street retailer New Look, which was largely responsible for the dismal performance it reported in June, is now better positioned to turn the corner.
In its 2019 integrated report, Brait, which counts Christo Wiese as a large shareholder, said after the restructuring of New Look’s balance sheet in May the retailer will be able to increase its investment in its operations.
"New Look’s materially deleveraged balance sheet and more flexible capital structure provides a stable operating platform," said Brait in the report. The company added that the retailer is now better positioned to invest in what it needs in order to better respond to challenges and grasp opportunities.
Brait invested £783m in New Look in 2015, acquiring an 89% stake at the time.
But the value of its equity and shareholder loan investment was reduced to zero in 2017 as weakening consumer confidence reduced sales in the retailer’s core market in the UK while operations in many other markets also faltered.
New Look pulled the shutters down for good in China in 2018 while its businesses in Poland, Belgium and France filed for bankruptcy.
Brait has already reduced its stake in New Look to 18.5% after the debt restructuring in May. The UK retailer now makes up only 3% of the SA company’s investment portfolio. However, Brait is still New Look’s largest shareholder.
In its 2019 annual report, New Look said it was crucial to invest in its digital channels to fully align with its in-store operations so that it can improve on features such as photo search and click-and-collect for better customer experience.
It said it has already recorded improved profitability on its e-commerce business and is working with suppliers to improve its speed to market and to minimise slippage.
New Look also said that it has returned to its roots, offering broader apparel and wardrobe basics instead of pushing higher-priced "edgy" products for younger customers and has already seen positive improvements in profit on women’s wear offering.
Brait said New Look has also revised its target market and is now competing with retailers such as M&S, Next, and H&M.
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