WHSmith has bought the Past Times brand and IP. Retail Week takes a look at the history of the gifts retailer.

Retailers would be forgiven for thinking Past Times, which sold gifts and jewellery inspired by retro designs, was history after it disappeared from the high street in February last year and closed all its stores.

Past Times collapsed into administration alongside toy retailer Hawkins Bazaar, La Senza, Peacocks and more after the difficult trading conditions struck down many well-established businesses.

Past Times had not been performing well and it had returned to loss in 2010, recording a £1.5m loss before tax. This compares to a £500,000 profit the previous year.

Its troubles were historic, however, as Past Times had previously collapsed in 2005 along with its parent company at the time, Retail Variations. But private equity firm Epic rescued the retailer for £7.75m in a pre-pack deal.

Epic had hoped to turn the business around by installing a new management team led by managing director Mike Taylor, former boss of Whittard of Chelsea. It also introduced a restructuring plan to reduce head office costs, close loss-making international operations and reduce the store portfolio to its profitable core. But in January 2012 it fell once again into administraiton. 

The past decade has been turbulent for Past Times, which was founded in 1986 by John Beale - who also founded the Early Learning Centre – when he opened the first store in Turl Street, Oxford. Then in 2000 Beal sold it to Retail Variations.

Past Times has been given another life and if anyone can make it work it is WHSmith.