Joint provisional liquidators have been appointed by the High Court to four Irish operating companies that are part of the UK fashion group Arcadia.

There are 487 people employed in 14 stores in Ireland by the companies that include Topshop/Topman Ireland.

The firms also operate concession stands in a number of different premises.

It is hoped the Irish operations can be sold as part of an overall sale of the Arcadia Group, the court heard.

The intention is that the Irish stores are to continue trading through Christmas under the provisional liquidators, in an effort to maximise the value of the stock.

The parent group, which includes Topshop, Topman, Dorothy Perkins, Burton, Miss Selfridge, Evans and Wallis, collapsed into administration in the UK today.

It has 444 store sites in the UK and 22 overseas, employing 13,000 people.

John Lavelle BL told the court that the Irish companies rely entirely on their parent in order to trade and cannot operate independently of the Arcadia group as a whole.

UK entities own the relevant brands and intellectual property rights, operate the online platforms and own the leasehold interests in the premises used by the Irish companies, the court heard.

Mr Justice Michael Quinn granted the application to appoint Ken Fennell and James Anderson of Deloitte as joint provisional liquidators.

The companies are Arcadia Group Multiples Ireland Ltd, Topshop/Topman Ireland Ltd, Wallis Retail Ireland and Miss Selfridge Retail Ireland.

The court was told that the firms cannot pay their debts for reasons including the insolvency of the Arcadia group as a whole.

They had encountered difficulties before 2020 for reasons including the shift to online sales and increased competition.

Those difficulties were made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic, the court heard.

The impact on the Irish operations of Arcadia was particularly severe with the Irish stores, which were closed for 23 weeks, seeing revenues plummet by up to 60%, Mr Lavelle explained.

Because online sales were carried out through UK entities, the Irish companies did not generate any income from those sales and all four companies made losses in the financial year to the end of August 2020.

The main assets of the companies are sums due from other undertakings in the Arcadia group but, because there is an insolvency process underway, the likelihood of realising those inter-group debts is limited, counsel outlined.

 Arcadia previously turned down a £50 million loan from British sportswear tycoon Mike Ashley's Frasers Group to stave off bankruptcy.

The group going into administration means 13,000 jobs are now at risk at its flagship stores including Topshop, Topman, Dorothy Perkins, Burton, Miss Selfridge, Evans and Wallis.

No redundancies are being announced immediately as a result of the appointment of administrators and stores will continue to trade.

"We will now work with the existing management team and broader stakeholders to assess all options available for the future of the group's businesses," said Matt Smith, joint administrator at Deloitte.

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He said Deloitte would rapidly seek expressions of interest and expected to identify one or more buyers to ensure the future of the businesses.

"This is an incredibly sad day for all of our colleagues as well as our suppliers and our many other stakeholders," said Arcadia CEO Ian Grabiner.

He blamed the pandemic for the group's demise.

"In the face of the most difficult trading conditions we have ever experienced, the obstacles we encountered were far too severe," he said.

Owner Philip Green, 68, who was once dubbed "the king of the high street", saw his reputation hit from the high-profile collapse of retailer BHS four years ago.

His bricks and mortar businesses has also suffered from increasing online competition from the likes of Boohoo and Asos.

"Frasers Group can confirm that Arcadia Group Limited have declined Frasers Group's offer of a lifeline loan of up to £50m," it said in a statement to the London Stock Exchange.

"Frasers Group were not given any reasons for the rejection," it added.

Pension scheme

Back in 2015, Philip Green sold retailer BHS for just £1 to Dominic Chappell, a former bankrupt businessman with no retail experience. 

BHS then collapsed one year later, resulting in 11,000 job losses and leaving a massive £571-million deficit in its pension fund.

British lawmakers today called on Monaco-based Mr Green to cover the shortfall in the Arcadia pension fund, which is estimated to run as high as £350 million.

The head of parliament's cross-party Work and Pensions Committee, Stephen Timms, said Mr Green should dip into his own pocket to ensure workers do not miss out.

"There is unquestionably a moral case for the Green family to do the right thing and guarantee Arcadia's hardworking staff what is rightfully theirs, whatever happens this Christmas," he said.

Mr Timms also said the pensions regulator should "do everything in its power to fight the corner of the pension scheme members".