Allders in talks with landlord to avoid administration

Harold Tillman is in crisis talks to save the final piece of his retail empire.

Allders of Croydon, the department store in south London that Mr Tillman bought in 2005, is in crisis talks with its landlord to stave off administration.

It has requested a rent-free period and appealed to the local council for a business-rates-free period to give it breathing space.

Weak sales and a large rent bill have left the 300,000sq-ft store in dire straits.

In February, Mr Tillman restructured his ownership by reducing his stake to 35 per cent while the retail restructuring expert Hilco took a 35 per cent stake and Royal Bank of Scotland's West Register took a 30 per cent equity slice.

But the restructuring may not be enough to save the historic store, which dates back to 1862.

Andrew MacKenzie, whom Tillman appointed as Allders' chief executive, had been attempting to turn the business around by bringing in more concessions but it is thought its rent bill each month is too large compared to its sales.

The situation in Croydon is the latest woe for Mr Tillman. His Jaeger retail business was sold to Better Capital in April for just above its level of debts and Aquascutum was placed into administration later that month. But Mr Tillman retains a small stake in Jaeger.

Tillman bought Allders of Croydon out of administration in 2005 when it was part of a chain of stores.