The fashion entrepreneur Harold Tillman has spoken out against the way Jon Moulton’s Better Capital has run Jaeger since taking it over from him and declared he would start a rival business to serve disappointed Jaeger customers.
The veteran retailer said he was “saddened” by the way Better Capital, famed for the collapse of its CityLink parcels business, had shrunk Jaeger since buying it in April 2012.
Speaking after it emerged that Better Capital was considering moving Jaeger out of its Regent Street flagship store, Mr Tillman said turnover at the group had fallen and losses widened since the private equity firm took over. Better Capital has said it needs to drive down costs and debts.
Under his and Belinda Earl’s stewardship, Jaeger made profits for eight years, Mr Tillman said. But Better Capital closed two new brands, Jaeger London and Jaeger Boutique, which Mr Tillman and Ms Earl set up to target younger customers.
This, along with the departure of top staff, Mr Tillman claimed, has hit sales and profits. He said: “I’m so saddened at what’s happened there, so the original Jaeger team and myself are developing a plan to launch our own brand and create the product for the customers Jaeger have left behind.”
Mr Tillman had offered to buy Jaeger back, but Mr Moulton said he would only sell it at a substantial premium to his investment.
Mr Tillman’s new business will sell what he called “affordable luxury for ladies and men”. He said it would be international, including complete clothing collections and accessories online and through department stores with some standalone flagship outlets and a presence in selected shopping malls.
Another criticism of the way Jaeger has been run is that it has resorted to heavy discounting that has harmed its once upmarket brand. Last Christmas stores offered up to 50 per cent discounts to boost sales.
Mr Moulton declined to comment beyond pointing out that Jaeger’s results for the year to February 2012 – the last under Mr Tillman’s reign – showed a loss of £25m against a £1.4m profit the previous year.
The 2012 accounts were prepared by Better Capital and included £15m of one-off exceptional costs including money owed by Aquascutum, Mr Tillman’s other fashion company, that went into administration. However, accounts for 2013 and 2014, post-Tillman, also show losses totalling a combined £14.1m.
A Jaeger spokesperson said: “Our turnaround strategy is making good progress. We delivered like-for-like sales growth of 10 per cent last year and losses reduced for the second year running.
We are investing in stores, developing our online presence and our new collections, refocused on Jaeger’s Premium British heritage, have been very well received.”
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