100 jobs saved in High and Mighty retail rescue

MORE than 100 retail jobs looked set to be safeguarded today after administrators sold the bulk of stores within failed specialist menswear chain High & Mighty.

Home shopping firm N Brown bought 14 High & Mighty stores across the UK - one in Leeds - for 1.6 million immediately after the firm was placed into administration in a so-called "pre-pack" deal.

Newbury-headquartered High & Mighty, which specialises in clothing and footwear for tall and large men, collapsed after trading difficulties.

Administrators PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) said they had been forced to close the remaining eight stores not included in the N Brown deal, with the loss of about 25 staff.

High & Mighty also had a five-strong franchise in Europe and the Middle East which was not part of the sale.

But the future of the High & Mighty brand has been secured, with N Brown also hoping to transform it into a multi-channel business under plans to expand the online offering and launch a home shopping offering.

Alan White, chief executive of N Brown, said they group would first concentrate on turning around the fortune of the high street stores before the key Christmas selling season.

"One of the main reasons it went down is that they under-invested in stores and lost clientele over the years as a result - they need some reinvigoration," he said.

The group wants to create a portfolio of stores in major cities, building on the existing 14 taken over at Cardiff, Birmingham, Bristol, Southampton, Reading, Leeds, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Brighton, Romford in Essex and three London stores in Oxford Street's Plaza, Edgware Road and Knightsbridge.

N Brown has initially bought the stores on a six month licence from PwC, giving it room to review the suitability of the locations, according to Mr White.

He also wants to expand High & Mighty's website and build on the current 1 million in annual online sales.

The store acquisition marks N Brown's first branded foray on to the high street, although it already owns a chain of around 20 stock clearance stores predominantly in the North East, called The X Catalogue Store.

Retail analysts at Numis Securities said the High & Mighty buy was an "ideal fit".

"This seems an ideal addition at a distressed price with little downside," they added.