Working from home has become the norm of many millions of people in the UK since the first lockdown in March 2020. One consequence of this is the lack of activity in office spaces, as well as a shortfall in demand for the types of clothing many of us expect to wear during our working hours.
The pre-lockdown culture of sharp suits and ties has been ditched in favour of more casual work-from-home attire, impacting high end clothing retailers such as Brooks Brothers UK, which has now fallen into administration.
Work from home hits retail
Brooks and Brothers UK was just one offshoot of the US-based Brooks Brothers chain, headquartered in Manhattan. Established in 1818, the brand had success operating its UK branch out of Regent Street, offering London-based customers a cut of quintessential American business fashion.
However, in 2021, lockdown has resulted in as many as 52 per cent of UK workers staying home as of February, according to a poll by Prolific. Even when lockdown eases, those polled believed they would most likely continue to spend at least two working days a week at home, meaning the trickle of those returning to the office is likely to be muted at best.
As more of us ditched smart office wear in favour of comfy home-based items of clothing during the working week under lockdown, Brooks Brothers saw a sharp decline in revenues across the world. In 2020, the US parent firm filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, just one year after boasting revenues of $1 billion.
A victim of the times
Now, the UK branch has collapsed too, with the prolonged closure of retail cited as a leading cause. This was because mounting rent arrears remained outstanding and the collapse of the worldwide group sent shockwaves through the brand, making it harder to sustain it any longer.
Asher Miller and Stephen Katz from David Rubin & Partners have been called in as administrators, revealing that despite the loss of the lease on the Regent Street site, three new stores would open at the O2 Arena in London, Westfield Shepherd’s Bush, as well as a store in Bicester. This comes as nonessential retailers expect to be allowed to reopen, according to the government’s lockdown timetable.
Clearly, the culture of office work is unlikely to be extinguished entirely in the long term, but a structural shift towards increased working-from-home opportunities for the UK workforce could transform the office attire sector profoundly. Such shifts are important to bear in mind, if you’ve got your eye on a high-end fashion brand acquisition in the same league as Brooks Brothers UK.