Cotswold Outdoor owner latest to plot wave of store closures

23 January 2019, 13:34 | Updated: 23 January 2019, 16:23

The group behind high street chains including Cotswold Outdoor and Snow & Rock is drawing up plans for a wave of store closures that will deepen the gloom which has engulfed Britain’s retail sector.

Sky News has learnt that AS Adventure, the holding company for a retail portfolio spanning the UK and several European countries, is close to appointing advisers to work on the shop closure programme.

Details of the plans are at an early stage and no decisions have been taken yet about the extent of their impact on AS Adventure's UK interests, which comprise nearly 120 stores.

Sources said on Wednesday that a "significant number" of Cotswold Outdoor sites were expected to be earmarked for closure, potentially affecting hundreds of jobs.

AS Adventure, which is owned by PAI Partners, a Paris-based private equity firm, has a UK turnover of £190m, and employs 1,200 people in Britain.

It also trades under the brands Cycle Surgery and Runners Need, with many stores including more than one of AS Adventure's fascias.

A source close to PAI said: "Given the difficult market environment, the company is looking at a range of cost-cutting initiatives.

"As part of that, it is possible that stores may be closed as an adjustment to the estate but it is way too early to say.

"No decision has been taken on any store closure and no advisers have been appointed."

AS Adventure's plans contrast those with those outlined by rival Mountain Warehouse, whose chief executive, Mark Neale, told Sky News this week that he would continue to open stores despite the tough industry climate.

The new year flurry of festive trading updates has produced a mixed picture of retailers' fortunes, although it has not been as dire as many analysts predicted before Christmas.

Among the prominent chains which face uncertain futures is Debenhams, which is working on a wide-ranging financial restructuring that will include store closures, rent cuts and job losses.

New Look has announced plans for a debt-for-equity swap which requires bondholders' consent.

The fate of HMV, the music and entertainment retailer, also hangs in the balance as bidders including the Sports Direct tycoon Mike Ashley continue talks with the chain's administrators.