JJB Sports executive director Peter Williams said the approval of its company voluntary arrangement marks a “sea change” in the relationship between retailers and landlords.
Williams said that while CVAs are not easy to carry out in retail, the JJB Sports scheme – which was approved on Monday – is “a great illustration that if you engage with creditors, particularly in property, they will put their weight behind it”.
99 per cent of creditors approved the CVA, saving the retailer from administration. David Atkins, managing director of JJB landlord Hammerson, said: “The manner that JJB and their administrators approached the CVA should be applauded. They were very open and gave us an opportunity to discuss the proposal they had in mind.”
The approval is a coup for Williams and Sir David Jones – who were parachuted in to rescue the retailer – and shows that CVAs can work in retail.
Footwear chain Stylo attempted to push through a CVA in February but it was rejected. Landlords were unhappy with the terms that Stylo was demanding, but while there were concerns that voting in favour of a CVA would set a precedent that other struggling retailers would follow, the JJB result shows that most landlords are not opposed to CVAs in principle.
Atkins said he was not concerned that JJB’s CVA would open the floodgates and that talk about setting a precedent had been overblown.
“We haven’t voted against them out of principle in the past; it’s down to a commercial decision on a case-by-case basis,” he said.
JJB founder Dave Whelan, who bought JJB’s fitness chain, commended the decision. “I think David Jones has done a wonderful job. He has saved over 10,000 jobs,” he said.
Whelan confirmed that he is in negotiations to buy a helicopter from the business. “I have fitness clubs all over the country and a helicopter will be essential so I can avoid spending half a day on the motorway.”