Here comes Jackson, cap in hand

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The Independent Online
John Jackson may have bitten off more than he can chew at Sketchley. It is nearly two years since Tony Bloom and John Richardson, the men credited with saving the dry-cleaning to workwear rental group from near collapse, bowed out saying their job was done. Almost simultaneously, up popped Mr Jackson full of marketing speak and promises to rebuild the business around the original Sketchley brand and SupaSnaps, a photo-processing operation bought from Dixons.

Just 15 months into the job, and he's back, cap in hand, asking shareholders to cough up pounds 22m. Profits have gone and borrowings soared. Mr Jackson was desperately attempting to paint the cash call as a positive move yesterday to support new business, and, to be fair, he does seem to have the support of large shareholders.

All the same, this is very definitely last-chance saloon. Sketchley is always promising better times ahead but somehow they never seem to arrive.

It was meant to have defeated its problems this time last year after closing 70 loss-making shops. But the stream of loss-makers amongst the Sketchley and SupaSnaps chains shows no signs of abating, with another 160 uncovered in March.

The problem is that most of Sketchley is in hugely competitive businesses, where brand name counts for little. New management's struggle against this unpalatable fact has been largely in vain, as the share price performance shows. The latest cash call at 105p is pitched at a price just 5 per cent higher than the rescue rights launched six years ago.