Jewellery group Aurum, owner of Mappin & Webb, Goldsmiths and Watches of Switzerland, has parachuted in retail restructuring and turnaround specialist Ian Gray to renegotiate rents with its landlords.

The hiring follows a business review earlier this year by Ernst & Young. Aurum was formerly backed by bust Icelandic investor Baugur, whose 38% stake is now held by nationalised bank Landsbanki.

Although troubleshooter Gray frequently gets involved in distress situations, Aurum chief executive Justin Stead said his arrival was part of the retailer’s focus on cost efficiencies.

He said:  “Ian Gray, in conjunction with Cushman & Wakefield, has been appointed by Aurum to construct and formulate a strategy of engagement with our landlord community to negotiate rent reductions.

“Our banking syndicate continues to be totally supportive and we are pleased to have performed above management expectations in the year to date.”

The rent reductions being sought are understood to be separate from Aurum’s refinancing and the retailer is not thought to be seeking to exit any of its 170 stores.

Retail Knowledge Bank senior partner Robert Clark said Gray’s association with difficult situations suggested Aurum is “finding things difficult and seriously looking to reduce costs”.

He said: “The jewellery market is very capital intensive and Aurum has a combination of high-ticket items and a difficult corporate background, with the Baugur connection.”

In its first quarter to April, Aurum reported flat like-for-likes. Stead said: “We will shortly be issuing our second-quarter results that, based on our competitors’ recently published reports, show that we continue to take market share. We remain cautious, but optimistic for the remainder of the year.”

In recent years Gray has worked with several retailers on turnarounds. Most recently he was parachuted in to help embattled hardware specialist Robert Dyas and became chairman of the business after a management buyout in April.

He also advised footwear chain Stylo on strategy, including its ultimately unsuccessful attempt to strike a CVA with creditors.