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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: June 27, 2011 @ 4:25 pm

    Feminine, sexy, fun-loving Jane Norman has gone into administration

    Laura Slattery

    Jane Norman has gone into administration, the latest casualty of recession-related fashion fatigue, the result of which 1,600 jobs in the UK and Ireland are at risk. The British women’s clothing chain has been struggling with debts of £140 million and a depressed retail sector at a time when input costs are rising. However, it’s not too much of a stretch to also blame its woes on the twin spectres of Primark and the obesity epidemic.

    Jane Norman specialises in the 16-25 age group – with the emphasis on the sweet sixteen end of the scale – which means its dresses tend to be doll-like confections of viscose and elastane, with a fondness for jewel embellishments, netted underskirts and an abnormally high frequency of halternecks. Where a mother-daughter shopping phenomenon was embraced by the likes of Topshop and its profitable ilk, body-conscious styling more or less ruled that out at Jane Norman.

    “While our core market falls into the 16-25 age bracket, our style is more about a state of mind than a specific demographic,” the 59-year-old company claims on its website, to which the obvious reply is “your demographic is all too specific”. Today, Twitter is awash with tweets lamenting that Jane Norman’s stock didn’t fit a) anyone over the age of 21 b) black women and c) anyone of any race who isn’t anorexic. Only its employees will miss it is the tenor of an unhealthy chunk of the online reaction.

    “The Jane Norman girl is feminine, sexy, fun-loving and confident,” declares the company website, to which you can add “broke”. Though its stock has improved of late, traditionally its dresses looked and felt unnecessarily cheap – as if life was a permanent hen night for petites – which would be fine, except it wasn’t cheap, it was significantly pricier than the Primark / Penneys trading round the corner, to where its customers have presumably long since departed.

    The fate of its 90 UK stores and a similar number of Debenhams concessions – plus seven standalone stores and six Debenhams concessions in Ireland – now hangs in the balance. It’s been suggested that the administrators, the accountancy group Zolfo Cooper, will be able to swiftly sell it on in what’s known as a “pre-pack administration” to either Debenhams or Edinburgh Woollen Mill, saving its workforce, or most of it.

    UPDATE 28/06/2011: Edinburgh Woollen Mill has purchased 33 of the 94 Jane Norman stores, saving 396 of the jobs. A further 740 jobs related to Jane Norman concessions are still at risk, but 390 jobs have unfortunately been lost across the UK and Ireland. Five of the Irish stores are to close, though the Sligo store is to remain open. Apologies to any employee offended by my comments about Jane Norman clothes in this blog, which is meant as an analysis of just some of the business/market factors behind the company’s difficulties.

    • Sharon says:

      I am one of the 1,600 employees who doesnt even know if I have a job left or not and your unsavoury article is by no means helpful or informative, rather its tacky and cold.
      From it however, it appears you have a personal vendetta with the sizing of the clothes??
      Our clothes are significantly pricer than primark /penneys yes, but they are not our competitors rather miss selfridges and oasis and other stores like that.
      What the employees will miss is an income and the ability to support their families.

      I am very surprised to see an article with this style of writing and tone to appear in any section of the Irish Times, I feel it would fit in a lot better with the likes of the Sun or the daily mirror.

    • Hi Sharon,

      sorry to hear your job is in doubt and I apologise if you found my blog offensive. I am well aware that this must be an awful time for employees. Whenever any business is in trouble, we regularly examine the reasons for the difficulties, including the underlying business model, the nature of the product, the economic conditions, the competition, the changed market and so on. I have been trying to get more information from the administrators about what will happen to the chain and its employees, but so far no further details have been forthcoming from them. Of course, it will be good news for employees if a new buyer can save most or all of the stores – I had thought this went without saying, so apologies again if that was not clear,

      Laura

    • so we can say that there are opportunities even in crises.

    • sharon says:

      Hi Laura,

      I appreciate the apology, thank you.
      Unfortunately you probably wont get any information from the administrators or from the company itself. I have worked for Jane Norman since 2007 and I found out that I have just lost my job from reading the news articles posted on the internet. When these articles first surfaced a few weeks ago I got in touch with people in head office to see what was the story as they had not even bothered to get in touch with any of the staff to explain what was goin on. I was lied to point blank and shrugged off to be told everything was fine. This was the first and last time they contacted us regarding the situation and we would not have even heard from them if I didnt ask what was going on. Through out this whole time they have shown nothing but a complete lack of regard for their staff. Staff morale or incentive was never anywhere near the top of their agenda, if anything it was at the bottom.
      I cannot say im surprised that we find ourselves in this situation because any suggestions or ideas we tried to come up with to see if we could improve our stores etc. were never listened to, nothing ever changed.
      So now I am left with an extremely bitter taste in my mouth towards the company as I sit here unemployed and find myself without my months wages, my holiday pay, my lieu pay all of which I am owed but instead I am looking at bills and car insurance renewals and I have nothing to pay for them with.
      Under new management or not I will never set foot inside a Jane Norman store or give the 1cent of my money as they have left my without all mine!

    • Edel says:

      I am 5′ 5″ and a size 12, and I am most certainly not anorexic, and Jane Norman’s clothes have always fit me. I am 26, as are all my friends, and most of us would rate J.N. as our favourite shop. We are far from 16, thank you.
      Laura, either you have never set foot in the shop and you walked in with black tape sellotaped around your eyes. You say that their clothing is suited to hen parties. Well, I’ve never seen hen parties wearing nice fitted jumpers, or long cardigans, or jeans. I have bought a lot of my cardigans from Jane Norman, and a lot of tops also. I am a teacher, and I certainly hope I don’t look like a member of a hen party when I’m work teaching children.
      You have smugly looked down upon this shop for no good reason. You do not reflect the general attitude of the people on the street.

    • Mel says:

      Hello Laura

      With regards to you article I cant say that I was impressed especially in light of the circumstances of the employees.

      There has been enough talk about rescue bids and the plight of Jane Norman. The buyers stand to make a very generous profit from their purchase. The real plight here is the way this deal has been done and the exploitation of employee rights which appears to have been totally ignored and now a very acceptable practice within Ireland. I totally agree with your wording of the Pre-pack deal administrators use as being controversial. Let me tell you the creditors are not the only people to suffer losses through this process, yet this is all we hear about. I have brought this to the attention of my local TD, employment laws are made in this country and not enforced. You will not get information from Zolfo cooper the Managers and staff didn’t.


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