Sir Philip Green’s retail empire Arcadia has been broken up after falling into administration last year. Its brands, which include Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridge, have been sold to the online retailers Asos and Boohoo, but all the stores are shutting, meaning the vast majority of its 13,000 staff are losing their jobs.
We have talked to two Arcadia employees who have been made redundant after the group’s collapse.
Elizabeth Ford, 57, Warrington
Elizabeth Ford had worked for Topshop and Topman for 38 years before she lost her job last week. “I loved it and for the first time in my life I’m having to claim jobseeker’s allowance,” she said.
Working in various roles such as a back of house manager and more recently as a sales assistant, Ford had been employed at the Warrington branch in Cheshire since 1982. “I feel let down by a company I’ve championed for nearly 40 years. I’ve not got to the angry stage yet but I’m sure it will come.”
Ford said she was asked to attend a conference call with her area manager Tuesday last week, a day after Asos was announced as the new owner of Topshop. During the call she said she was told Asos would only be trading online and that their notice period was effective immediately.
“The week before I was saying to staff that it’s not over till it’s over,” Ford said. “I was convinced that if they wanted to close Topshop they would have closed all the stores at the same time, and that there were around 80 stores that were viable and profitable. So I was shocked and disappointed to hear that was it.”
Though she and her colleagues did not need to, Ford spent the first week of her notice period packing up the shop. “Everyone came in. They could have stayed at home but it’s testament to the kind of team we were. On our last day we had some pizza and a little awards ceremony before we handed the keys in. It was very emotional.”
Looking to the future, Ford “fancies a change”. “My father died of Covid in January so I was thinking I could maybe deliver prescriptions to the elderly and give back a bit.
“I’m dumbstruck – I loved my job, the company and the people I worked for. I understand it’s a really tough time on the high street and a lot won’t survive but I can’t imagine a high street without a Topshop – it’s scandalous really.”
James, 37, Walsall
After 20 years of working for Arcadia, James, from Walsall, in the West Midlands, is now looking for work. “There was always a risk we would lose our jobs but for it to happen during lockdown has made it worse than we could ever have imagined,” said the 37-year-old, who was a duty manager at a West Bromwich branch of Outfit, Arcadia’s multibrand outlet.
James, who asked for his surname to be withheld, spent 12 years with Burton and Dorothy Perkins and finished his employment working at an Outfit branch. He said his employment was terminated effective immediately.
“It’s very upsetting especially considering how long I’ve been working with the company. When I started working at Burton there were older employees who were very proud of the store and its history. The news is all about Topshop, but the group’s origins are from Burton, which seem to get ignored, bringing more upset to staff.”
He said it was quite difficult finding a job but added that some companies had been offering direct hire roles to those who used to work for Arcadia. “We did have one email from Aldi saying they were recruiting so a lot of us have responded to that. It’s quite concerning. The only stores that have a similar customer to Outfit are Next and River Island but we don’t know when shops will open again – no one appears to be recruiting at the moment.
“Will shops return to the high street? A lot of us think in a few years there will be demand for it again as customers will be getting fed up of posting refunds back and not being able to try items on first.
“We were clinging on to Burton stores still trading in their original buildings but the administrators have ended Sir Montague Burton’s legacy which is really sad.”