These property agents had clearly been waiting to see whether The Works could be salvaged, or whether it would hit the wall. The Works is the latest victim of dire trading on the high street and was just one of the retailers on property agents’ “pending” list.
But, while many agents could have forecast the collapse of The Works, they were more interested in this than they were about the collapse of shoe chain Dolcis, or the potential offloading of stores from rival footwear chain Stead & Simpson.
The Works was a 317-store chain, which was built up by acquiring rival book chains, such as David Flatman’s Bookworld. It traded in good secondary locations, under fascias such as Book Depot, Banana Bookshop and Booksale, in decent-sized stores of between 2,000 sq ft (185 sq m) and 4,000 sq ft (370 sq m).
The Works expanded a few years ago, swallowing up smaller rival chains and taking prominent stores when landlords were struggling to fill spaces. As such, it secured some highly visible sites in strong secondary locations at fairly cheap rents.
Unlike some retailers that blame landlords and rental increases for the collapse of their business, The Works is unlikely to do this. Rather, it suffered from the general economic slowdown and the resurgence of rivals such as WHSmith and Waterstone’s.
What property agents now have is an extensive list of stores that they can actually do something with. There might be some dross in its portfolio, but there are about 250 stores that are likely to light up some retailers’ eyes.
Interest in the stores is understood to be coming from several sectors. Mobile phones are obviously in the picture, along with sandwich shops. And fashion retailers are also picking through their favourites.
While there aren’t a lot of retailers expanding in huge droves, these stores will give some retailers the opportunity to upsize from nearby locations. Retailers will also be aware that landlords are unlikely to want to hike up the rent in these stores – they will merely be concerned about getting in a new tenant and not having a big, empty store in their scheme.
It’s never good news to see a retailer go bust, but at least The Works’ stores provide some opportunity in the market. There’s nothing worse than a retailer going into administration and leaving behind a load of highly rented, badly configured stores in difficult locations that nobody wants.