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

Photo: Getty Images
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A simple U-Turn may not be enough to get the Conservatives out of their tax credit mess

The Tories are in a mess over cuts to tax credits. But a mere U-Turn may not be enough to fix the problem. 

A spectre is haunting the Conservative party - the spectre of tax credit cuts. £4.4bn worth of cuts to the in-work benefits - which act as a top-up for lower-paid workers - will come into force in April 2016, the start of the next tax year - meaning around three million families will be £1,000 worse off. For most dual-earner families affected, that will be the equivalent of a one partner going without pay for an entire month.

The politics are obviously fairly toxic: as one Conservative MP remarked to me before the election, "show me 1,000 people in my constituency who would happily take a £1,000 pay cut, then we'll cut welfare". Small wonder that Boris Johnson is already making loud noises about the coming cuts, making his opposition to them a central plank of his 

Tory nerves were already jittery enough when the cuts were passed through the Commons - George Osborne had to personally reassure Conservative MPs that the cuts wouldn't result in the nightmarish picture being painted by Labour and the trades unions. Now that Johnson - and the Sun - have joined in the chorus of complaints.

There are a variety of ways the government could reverse or soften the cuts. The first is a straightforward U-Turn: but that would be politically embarrassing for Osborne, so it's highly unlikely. They could push back the implementation date - as one Conservative remarked - "whole industries have arranged their operations around tax credits now - we should give the care and hospitality sectors more time to prepare". Or they could adjust the taper rates - the point in your income  at which you start losing tax credits, taking away less from families. But the real problem for the Conservatives is that a mere U-Turn won't be enough to get them out of the mire. 

Why? Well, to offset the loss, Osborne announced the creation of a "national living wage", to be introduced at the same time as the cuts - of £7.20 an hour, up 50p from the current minimum wage.  In doing so, he effectively disbanded the Low Pay Commission -  the independent body that has been responsible for setting the national minimum wage since it was introduced by Tony Blair's government in 1998.  The LPC's board is made up of academics, trade unionists and employers - and their remit is to set a minimum wage that provides both a reasonable floor for workers without costing too many jobs.

Osborne's "living wage" fails at both counts. It is some way short of a genuine living wage - it is 70p short of where the living wage is today, and will likely be further off the pace by April 2016. But, as both business-owners and trade unionists increasingly fear, it is too high to operate as a legal minimum. (Remember that the campaign for a real Living Wage itself doesn't believe that the living wage should be the legal wage.) Trade union organisers from Usdaw - the shopworkers' union - and the GMB - which has a sizable presence in the hospitality sector -  both fear that the consequence of the wage hike will be reductions in jobs and hours as employers struggle to meet the new cost. Large shops and hotel chains will simply take the hit to their profit margins or raise prices a little. But smaller hotels and shops will cut back on hours and jobs. That will hit particularly hard in places like Cornwall, Devon, and Britain's coastal areas - all of which are, at the moment, overwhelmingly represented by Conservative MPs. 

The problem for the Conservatives is this: it's easy to work out a way of reversing the cuts to tax credits. It's not easy to see how Osborne could find a non-embarrassing way out of his erzatz living wage, which fails both as a market-friendly minimum and as a genuine living wage. A mere U-Turn may not be enough.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.