Five questions answered on Republic, the latest high street casualty

Republic calls in the administrators.

After falling sales, high street retailer Republic has called in administrators. We answer five questions on the next potential high street casualty.

Why have Republic called in administrators?

Owned by private equity group TPG, Republic is said to have called in the administrators Ernst & Young because of falling sales in a fiercely competitive part of the high street. The company focuses on the youth fashion market, which is fiercely competitive and under pressure.

How many high street shops does Republic have?

The youth fashion retailer, which was founded in Leeds in 1986, has 121 shops in the UK and employs about 2,500 staff.

What will happen to Republic’s stores?

Some could be snapped up. However, Matthew Hopkinson, speaking to the BBC believes that because the vast majority of them are in shopping centres, they could be difficult to fill.

"HMV and others have also been sitting in shopping centres and therefore I think the number of units which have gone in the last few months in shopping centres will make it far harder than 12 months to refill them," he said.

What are the experts saying?

Anusha Couttigane, consultant at retail research group Conlumino, speaking to The Telegraph said: "Despite TPG, the US-based private equity group which owns the brand, claiming that underlying sales have remained strong, annual accounts for January 2012 indicated that gross profits were down by 9.17pc and it appears little has changed since then.

"Nevertheless TPG cites crippling rental rates as the main cause for the company’s breakdown, recently hiring KMPG in a desperate bid to offload some of its 121 stores.

"In light of this, news of its administration suggests that attempts to renegotiate monthly payments have failed, bringing the business to a complete standstill and landlords facing the prospect of more vacant units on the high street.

"Operating towards the value end of the market should have placed the retailer in a strong position to take advantage of the consumer trend towards low-cost fashion.

"However, its target youth market has been the hardest hit demographic of the recession and it has struggled to appeal to them as effectively as rivals such as Primark, ASOS or H&M.

"Fashion is a fast-moving industry where brand loyalty is fickle and Republic has failed to keep up with some pretty fierce competitors."

What other high street stores have gone bust recently?

Other high profile high street casualties include HMV, the camera group Jessops and the DVD and games rental company, Blockbuster, plus electronics supplier Comet before them.

Photograph: Getty Images

Heidi Vella is a features writer for Nridigital.com

Photo: Getty
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Who will win in Stoke-on-Trent?

Labour are the favourites, but they could fall victim to a shock in the Midlands constituency.  

The resignation of Tristram Hunt as MP for Stoke-on-Central has triggered a by-election in the safe Labour seat of Stoke on Trent Central. That had Westminster speculating about the possibility of a victory for Ukip, which only intensified once Paul Nuttall, the party’s leader, was installed as the candidate.

If Nuttall’s message that the Labour Party has lost touch with its small-town and post-industrial heartlands is going to pay dividends at the ballot box, there can hardly be a better set of circumstances than this: the sitting MP has quit to take up a well-paid job in London, and although  the overwhelming majority of Labour MPs voted to block Brexit, the well-advertised divisions in that party over the vote should help Ukip.

But Labour started with a solid lead – it is always more useful to talk about percentages, not raw vote totals – of 16 points in 2015, with the two parties of the right effectively tied in second and third place. Just 33 votes separated Ukip in second from the third-placed Conservatives.

There was a possible – but narrow – path to victory for Ukip that involved swallowing up the Conservative vote, while Labour shed votes in three directions: to the Liberal Democrats, to Ukip, and to abstention.

But as I wrote at the start of the contest, Ukip were, in my view, overwritten in their chances of winning the seat. We talk a lot about Labour’s problem appealing to “aspirational” voters in Westminster, but less covered, and equally important, is Ukip’s aspiration problem.

For some people, a vote for Ukip is effectively a declaration that you live in a dump. You can have an interesting debate about whether it was particularly sympathetic of Ken Clarke to brand that party’s voters as “elderly male people who have had disappointing lives”, but that view is not just confined to pro-European Conservatives. A great number of people, in Stoke and elsewhere, who are sympathetic to Ukip’s positions on immigration, international development and the European Union also think that voting Ukip is for losers.

That always made making inroads into the Conservative vote harder than it looks. At the risk of looking very, very foolish in six days time, I found it difficult to imagine why Tory voters in Hanley would take the risk of voting Ukip. As I wrote when Nuttall announced his candidacy, the Conservatives were, in my view, a bigger threat to Labour than Ukip.

Under Theresa May, almost every move the party has made has been designed around making inroads into the Ukip vote and that part of the Labour vote that is sympathetic to Ukip. If the polls are to be believed, she’s succeeding nationally, though even on current polling, the Conservatives wouldn’t have enough to take Stoke on Trent Central.

Now Theresa May has made a visit to the constituency. Well, seeing as the government has a comfortable majority in the House of Commons, it’s not as if the Prime Minister needs to find time to visit the seat, particularly when there is another, easier battle down the road in the shape of the West Midlands mayoral election.

But one thing is certain: the Conservatives wouldn’t be sending May down if they thought that they were going to do worse than they did in 2015.

Parties can be wrong of course. The Conservatives knew that they had found a vulnerable spot in the last election as far as a Labour deal with the SNP was concerned. They thought that vulnerable spot was worth 15 to 20 seats. They gained 27 from the Liberal Democrats and a further eight from Labour.  Labour knew they would underperform public expectations and thought they’d end up with around 260 to 280 seats. They ended up with 232.

Nevertheless, Theresa May wouldn’t be coming down to Stoke if CCHQ thought that four days later, her party was going to finish fourth. And if the Conservatives don’t collapse, anyone betting on Ukip is liable to lose their shirt. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.