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Blow for the high street and 229 jobs axed as Watt Brothers goes into administration

© DCT MediaWatt Brothers department store in Glasgow
Watt Brothers department store in Glasgow

Scots department store chain Watt Brothers has gone into administration, with the majority of staff made redundant with immediate effect.

Administrators KPMG said they had “no other option” but to cut 229 of the company’s 306 employees in a bid to save the business.

The remaining employees have been retained to assist the sell-off of the company’s assets, including stock and property.

The administrators are said to be “rapidly exploring” whether an early sale of some of the business and assets can be secured.

Watt Brothers will continue to trade from the flagship store in Glasgow, with a stock clearance event beginning on Saturday.

Alongside their main outlet on Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street, Watt Brothers have department stores in Irvine, Ayr, Clarkston, Hamilton, Lanark, Livingston, Robroyston, Clydebank and Port Glasgow.

Blair Nimmo, Joint Administrator and UK Head of Restructuring at KPMG, 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.

“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.”

Watt Brothers’ history dates back to the late 1800s, where Lanarkshire born Allan Watt set up a drapery shop in Glasgow’s Elmbank Street.

The business grew from there, opening its famous store on the corner of Sauchiehall Street and Hope Street in 1915.

Its most recent store opened in 2016 in Port Glasgow.

The chain’s turnover had increased year-on-year, peaking at approximately £24 million in 2018.

But the increased revenue did not translate into profit and a strain on margins, coupled with rising competition from online and new discount retailers, resulted in a loss in 2018.

As trading losses continued into 2019, Watt Brothers attempted to secure new investment.

However this was unsuccessful and the directors took the decision to appoint administrators.