Jack Wills swung to a full-year loss in its latest financial year as it battled to compete in a “highly competitive” clothing market.
The preppy fashion chain tumbled to an EBITDA loss of £7.5m in the year to January 28, 2018. According to documents filed at Companies House, the retailer registered a £6.3m profit the previous year.
Sales fell 1.1% to £129.3m, which Jack Wills blamed on a “challenging year” for the high street and “constrained” consumer finances.
Gross margins decreased from 55.9% in 2016/17 to 50.9% in 2017/18.
Three directors who were part of the business during the financial year have since quit the fashion chain. The exodus includes the exit of founder Peter Williams, who was ousted last September following a row with private equity owner BlueGem. A further eight directors stepped back from boardroom duties as Jack Wills moved to “a standard corporate structure”.
Former Debenhams executive Suzanne Harlow, who had been advising the retailer, was drafted in to succeed Williams as boss.
Since Harlow took the reins, BlueGem has completed a refinancing of the business, ploughing in an additional £7.5m loan and extending its revolving credit facility with HSBC.
Jack Wills said it had “moved on significantly” since 2017/18 and suggested that its EBITDA losses would be halved in 2018/19.
A spokeswoman said: “It is true that 2017/18 was a challenging year for Jack Wills, but the business has moved on significantly since then. The improved processes and tighter financial disciplines we have put in place helped halve the EBITDA loss for 2018/19.
“Looking forward, Jack Wills recently completed a significant refinancing, with continued support from our major shareholder, BlueGem. This puts us on a firm footing as we seek to return to sustainable growth by improving our product range and re-engaging with customers via the right channels.
“We have moved to a standard corporate structure where the only stat directors are the CEO and CFO.”