Glasgow & West Scotland

Scottish department store Watt Brothers goes into administration

Watt Brothers store in Glasgow Image copyright Watt Brothers
Image caption Watt Brothers opened its first store more than 100 years ago in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow

More than 200 people have lost their jobs after Scottish department store chain Watt Brothers went into administration.

Shutters were pulled down on the firm's 11 stores and 229 of its 306 employees made redundant with immediate effect.

The fourth-generation family-owned business was incorporated in 1915 with a flagship store in Glasgow's Sauchiehall Street.

It opened a further 10 leasehold stores across central Scotland.

They were in Irvine, Lanark, Falkirk, Port Glasgow, Hamilton, Livingston, Clydebank, Clarkston, Robroyston and Ayr.

They sold a wide range of items including fashion, electrical, homeware, jewellery, gifts and beauty.

Blair Nimmo and Alistair McAlinden of KPMG were appointed joint administrators of the business on Friday.

David Lonsdale, Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: "This is further evidence of just how tough trading conditions currently are for retailers, from sluggish consumer spending, to mushrooming costs and shifts in spending habits. Few brands are immune."

Stock clearance event

The company's turnover had increased year on year, peaking at approximately £24m in 2018.

However, in line with many retailers, the increased revenue did not translate into profit and increased competition from online and discount retailers resulted in a loss in 2018.

The family was unsuccessful in securing new investment.

Remaining employees will help the administrators collate the company's assets, including stock and the freehold property.

Administrators said Watt Brothers would continue to trade from the flagship store in Glasgow where a stock clearance event would begin on 19 October.

'Difficult time'

Joint Administrator Blair Nimmo said: "Despite the director's tireless efforts to increase margins, cut costs and recapitalise the business, Watt Brothers continued to incur trading losses as a result of the well-publicised challenges being experienced across the retail sector.

"Ultimately this has led to the unfortunate demise of a well-known and highly-regarded business.

"We will be holding a stock clearance event, and are grateful to the remaining staff for their efforts and assistance at this difficult time."

He added: "We are working closely with Skills Development Scotland, via their PACE team, and JobCentre Plus to support the staff who have been made redundant.

"We would encourage any party who has an interest in acquiring the business and its assets to contact us as soon as possible."

Who founded Watt Brothers?

Image copyright Watt Brothers/Facebook
Image caption Allan Watt founded the business in 1915

On 30 April 1915, Allan Watt - a Lanarkshire farmer's son - set up a small drapery business to boost the family's income which was beginning to drop.

He opened a shop on Glasgow's Elmbank Street, specialising in ribbons and lace.

He is the great-grandfather of the company's most recent owner, William Watt.

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