M&Co: Mackays clothing chain to close all its stores

Company has left its Dumbarton High Street store in disgraceful state of dereliction

Sore closing signs at an M&Co store in Peterhead

By Democrat reporter

BBC Scotland is reporting that clothes retailer M&Co is to close all of its 170 stores this spring, with the loss of almost 2,000 jobs.

The Paisley-based company, which used to be known as Mackays, is one of Scotland’s best known clothing chains.

The Democrat reported it had appointed administrators for a second time at the end of last year, after previously collapsing in 2020.

The brand has been bought by AK Retail Holdings but the purchase did not include physical stores, meaning they will now close down at Easter.

The closures were announced in social media posts by branches across the UK.

The posts, on Facebook, began: “Unfortunately we haven’t received the news we would have hoped for during our administration period, and would like to share this news with you.

“As we haven’t received any funded, deliverable offers that would result in the transfer of the company’s stores or staff to a potential buyer, this means that all of our stores will close.”

Interior of an M&Co store

Mackays was established as a pawnbrokers in Paisley, Renfrewshire, in 1834.

It switched to selling clothes in 1953, led by brothers Len and Ian McGeoch, and re-branded as M&Co in 2005.

It previously went into administration in 2020, when it lost 47 stores and 380 staff, but assets were immediately bought back by the family that built it up.

AK Retail Holdings, which has bought the brand, is the owner of plus size retailer Yours Clothing.

Meanwhile, Douglas Fraser, the BBC business and economy editor,  said M&Co appeared to be one of the high street survivors, with an important, reassuring presence, familiar staff and typically older shoppers who don’t want to travel into the city or shop online.

“It had a clever strategy for where it located, away from the main and most expensive retail locations, finding a geographical niche,” he wrote today..

He added that its customer base – typically an older, budget-conscious, female shopper who was less likely to shift to online shopping and went to M&Co not just for her own clothes, but also for her husband’s and to get something for her grandchildren too.

The company bosses realised these were not going to be customers for ever. It needed to refresh, it found trading more difficult before Covid because they were importing lots of products from Europe and trading was difficult due to economic and political uncertainty.

It was going through that process of refreshing its range and brands when Covid really knocked it. The first year of Covid saw turnover down from £200 million to below £50 million.

West Dunbartonshire Council SNP administration thought that bringing the council offices into the town centre would encourage more people to shop in the High Street.

But that strategy failed and while footfall on the high street has recovered to some extent, Dumbarton High Street is peppered with ‘For Sale’ and ‘To Rent’ signs and empty shops.

The state of the exterior of the shop M&Co left behind is a shameful disgrace and although Boris Johnston’s leveling up fund is reported to have granted £20 million for the refurbishment of Dumbarton Town Centre the prospect of recovery to the business levels it experienced in the Sixties and Seventies is unlikely.

It looks very much like it will be one of many Scottish towns which are quite precarious for retail.

Ewan MacDonald-Russell, deputy head of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said the impending closure of M&Co was horrible news for employees and a blow to Scotland’s high streets..

He added: “This sad news reaffirms the need for government to think very carefully before heaping any additional burdens on Scotland’s hard-pressed retail industry.

“It also underlines the need for the devolved administration to think again about the lack of any additional rates relief comparable to that which retailers, hospitality and leisure businesses in Wales and England are entitled to for the coming year.”

Top picture: Dumbarton No More: High Street back in the days when it was a busy shopping town.

One comment

  1. The initiative to create new council offices in the town centre was a good one. But it needs more than that.

    The High Street is a dump. No other way to describe it. The tenemental properties are dilaidated slums. The Artisan Way shopping centre is a 1960s blight. The so called listed and oldest building in the county, the Glencairn House lies dilapidated and out of use. Why would anyone come to and or set up a business in the town.

    Moreover, in the town centre’s example of utter decline one cannot but help notice how the area has become a magnet for ne’er do wells and not unusual to see the ambulance called out to junkie lying unconscious in the street or the nearby lanes.

    For a town with so much history, or supposed history, it will take big big intervention if the town is ever to be turned round.

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