Foschini, the owner of fashion retailers Phase Eight, Hobbs and Whistles, is close to buying bust counterpart Joules from administrators.

Joules Chelmsford

Joules has continued to trade from its 132 stores

The deal would encompass most of Joules’ stores and assets, though about a quarter of the shop estate would shut and there may be “several hundred” job losses, Sky News has reported.

While Foschini is thought to be the frontrunner for control of Joules, it is still possible that another buyer will emerge. Both Marks & Spencer and Next are thought to have cast a slide-rule over Joules – the latter previously held talks with Joules about investing in it but terms could not be agreed on.

Joules, which has 132 stores and employs around 1,600 people, called in administrators last month and stores have continued to trade since. Its demise followed a failure to strike an emergency financing deal.

Following Joules’ collapse, administrator Interpath Advisory said there had been “overwhelming” interest in the business from potential buyers.

Interpath head of restructuring and joint administrator Will Wright said last month that Joules was “one of the most recognisable names on the high street, with a unique brand identity and loyal customer base”.

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