In its heyday Allders was one of the most successful department stores in the country, rivalling big names such as Selfridges and generating tens of millions in revenue each year.
But administrators Duff and Phelps have said the 150-year store will close before the end of the month, ending a 15 year decline in Allders’ fortunes.
Some of its problems are not of its own making – Croydon town centre’s uncertain future, for instance, was a problem following its administration. It’s possible that a buyer for the flagship store would have been found had there been greater clarity about the redevelopment of the area, says Conlumino managing director Neil Saunders.
“No-one really knows what’s going to happen to the centre as a whole,” he says. “They were a victim of circumstance, as without the uncertainly people may have been interested.”
Croydon town centre has also had to contend with of a strong retail park offer locally. Analyst Nick Bubb points out that the Purley Way development, which boasts an Ikea and a John Lewis Home, has performed well over the past few years.
But Croydon’s problems aren’t the whole story. Allders has suffered from mismanagement in some degree for the last 10 years, and Saunders highlights the lack of investment in the Croydon store as a contributory factor in its downfall.
“The proposition hasn’t been very attractive,” he says. “The store increasingly looked rather down at heel, and it wasn’t a particularly exciting destination. I think that put some customers off going in.”
The department store sector has become increasingly competitive as other retailers such as John Lewis, Debenhams and House of Fraser have upped their game. In contrast, Allders failed to rethink its proposition and what it meant to Croydon shoppers.
Allders is one of the British high street’s oldest names, established in Croydon in 1862. After years of growth and changing ownership its problems really started in 2003, when Scarlett Retail Group, a consortium led by property group Minerva and investment bank Lehman Brothers, bought Allders for £162m. Ex-Bhs boss Terry Green became chief executive but in 2004, it posted a £30m pre-tax loss for the year to June and in 2005 it collapsed into administration.
Investor Harold Tillman attempted to rescue the famous name but was unable to, and its second administration was announced in June this year. Despite its history and well-known brand, the store’s closure seems almost inevitable after a long run of structural changes, bad luck and avoidable mistakes.