Will Wright and Chris Pole from Interpath Advisory have been appointed joint administrators to British online menswear retailer TM Lewin. Founded over 120 years ago in London, the firm is one of the UK’s most famous tailoring and menswear brands.
Prior to the pandemic, the company had grown to operate more than 150 shops worldwide, but after the initial impact of Covid and lockdown restrictions prompted it to enter an insolvency process, it moved to an online-only model trading exclusively in the UK in the summer of 2020.
Since then, trading has continued to be negatively impacted by the impact of Covid restrictions, including ongoing work-from-home guidance and a restriction on large events and social gatherings. While social distancing measures were lifted in early 2022, the cumulative impact on the company’s cashflow was such that, after exploring options for the business, the decision was taken to place it into administration.
In a statement, Wright, head of restructuring at Interpath Advisory and joint administrator, said: “Over the course of the pandemic, men’s apparel – and formalwear in particular – has been one of the hardest-hit parts of the retail sector, as work-from-home measures and restrictions on events meant demand for suits and formal tailoring waned.”
In 2020, TM Lewin was acquired by Torque Brands, a special purpose acquisition vehicle set up by London-based consumer specialist, SCP Private Equity. Torque Brands said it was set on acquiring a portfolio of complementary British brands, with the aim is to establish a portfolio of five to eight brands over the next 12-18 months, which will be integrated into one common shared services platform.
At the time TM Lewin operated a global business with sales of more than GBP120m (US$157.8m) in FY20, with online sales amounting to more than 30% of the group’s revenues in 2019.
Just over a month later, the new owner called in restructuring experts with a view to initiating a potential pre-pack administration. The company then moved to an online-only model in the summer of 2020.
Wright concludes: “Unfortunately, and despite the company undergoing a significant restructuring at the start of the pandemic which saw it move to an online model, the impact on this famous British brand has been severe. Our immediate priority is to explore options for the business, including a sale of the business and its assets.”
GlobalData analyst apparel Pippa Stephens summed up how the traditional menswear brand could not cope with the changing landscape of “the new normal.”
“The combination of increased home-working, office dress codes becoming more casual, and fewer in-person events has been detrimental to TM Lewin since the pandemic, with these factors making its formal offerings fall out of favour with consumers. While it closed all its stores after its previous administration in 2020, making it better positioned to benefit from consumers’ move to shopping online, it was unable to return to profitability, highlighting the long-term shift in shoppers’ clothing choices.”