Fashion retailer Colette saved from collapse but more than 100 stores to close

More than 100 stores at collapsed handbag and accessories retailer Colette by Colette Hayman will shut but the business will continue to run after the company was bought out of administration by former Myer boss Bernie Brookes.

Colette was placed into administration in February, prior to the coronavirus pandemic, after a deal to refinance the struggling business fell through. The retailer has traded through administration until last week when creditors agreed to sell the business to Mr Brookes' investment consortium.

Colette has been saved from collapse by former Myer boss Bernie Brookes.Credit:Janie Barrett

As part of the purchase, Mr Brookes will shutter 103 of Colette's 138 stores, leaving just 35 physical locations around the country. Just one-third of the company's 300 permanent staff will be retained, with around 200 casual jobs also kept.

The ex-chief executive of Myer will be the majority shareholder of the business and its executive chairman, and former Woolworths and Dick Smith executive John Skellern will be its chief executive.

Mr Brookes said he acknowledged his decision to purchase the business would be viewed as contrary to the "current difficulties" facing bricks and mortar retail but said he planned to transform Colette to have a stronger online offering.

"Owning a fashion retail chain is about true omni-channel retail; a strong online presence and physical stores," he said.

"Our purchase will enable the business to land in a future post COVID-19 in advance of any cessation of lockdowns and restrictions in the future, and our core offer of handbags and jewellery will continue, with a fresh focus on the strong performing stores retained, and a significant investment in the digital space."

Administrators Vaughan Strawbridge, Sam Marsden and Jason Tracy from Deloitte said the purchase was a good outcome for the business and a "significant achievement" considering the current market conditions.

"The new owners bring with them a significant track record in Australian and international retail and are well-positioned to reinvigorate the brand across a streamlined 35-store network," Mr Marsden said.

Bernie Brookes in his Myer days. Credit:Josh Robenstone

"It [has] been a turbulent journey through the heart of COVID-19, but we have witnessed great resilience and tenacity in the Colette management team and employee base, which will be a great asset to the new owner and a new chapter for Colette by Colette Hayman."

Colette is one of many major retailers which have collapsed this year, with other fashion merchants such as Bardot, Seafolly, Tigerlily, Ishka and Jeanswest also entering administration. Almost all have managed to find buyers, though numerous stores have closed in the process.

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