New Look is a multichannel and value-led fast-fashion retailer with just over 400 UK stores and around 30 in the Republic of Ireland, as well as an ecommerce business which serves more than 50 markets.
Serious underperformance beginning in 2017 led to former boss Alistair McGeorge being drafted in to turn the business around as executive chairman. COO Nigel Oddy took the helm as CEO from January 2020, with McGeorge becoming non-executive chairman.
But New Look was forced to trigger a second CVA process in August 2020 in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic which threw its turnaround plans awry as trading went into a tailspin. This was given the green light by landlords in September, saving over 11,000 jobs.
Along with moving most of its stores to turnover-based rent agreements, the passage of the CVA meant New Look was able to complete a contingent refinancing scheme, including a debt-for-equity swap which reduced debt from over £550m to around £100m. Completed in November 2020, the refinancing also included an extension on its primary working capital facilities with its lenders and a cash injection of £40m to support its turnaround plan.
This followed an initial financial restructuring during the previous year.
New Look had its first CVA proposal approved in 2018, which led to the closure of just over 100 UK stores. China and Belgium were exited completely, whilst administrators were appointed in Poland and France where stores have also subsequently closed.
WIth the financial restructuring of the business complete, former Sainsbury’s boss Mike Coupe succeeded McGeorge as chair towards the end of 2021, while Helen Connolly, the retailer’s former chief commercial officer, has taken over as CEO after Oddy stepped down from the business.
Driven by the reopening of its stores from the beginning of the financial year after the third national lockdown, total New Look sales rose 54.9% to £839.6m in the year to 26 March 2022 (FY2021). While the group remained marginally profitable at the statutory operating level, it swung to a pre-tax loss of £25.5m, driven by “significant impairment reversals” following the restructuring in FY2020.