Karen Millen exits high street as all stores close

It’s the end of an era as the Karen Millen name has finally disappeared from UK high streets. New owner Boohoo Group has now closed all Karen Millen stores after running stock clearance sales since it acquired the brand, along with stablemate Coast, as recently as August.

Karen Millen has now closed its UK stores – Sandra Halliday

Boohoo and its growing basket of brands are focused on pureplay e-tail and it declared immediately after buying Karen Millen that it wouldn’t maintain any of its stores, not even flagships such as the Regent Street, London, site. It also closed down its physical stores abroad.

The company is planning to relaunch the brand online via its own platform with the Karen Millen website currently running with “30% off everything” being the big message on the home page.

Karen Millen’s owner launched an auction for the two brands in the summer with Boohoo being the winning bidder and acquiring the business for £18.2 million.

In the last year for which we have figures (the 12 months to February 2018), Karen Millen was loss-making, although its losses had been reduced under its new CEO Beth Butterwick, who has left the business since the Boohoo takeover. Boohoo has said that in its most recent financial year to February 2019, unaudited management information shows that direct online sales from the websites of Karen Millen and Coast totalled £28.4 million.

The company had struggled for some time and it was something of a surprise when it bought Coast this time last year. At the time, it closed Coast’s standalone stores but maintained its concessions, although these have now also closed under Boohoo.

The Karen Millen brand never really recovered from the failure of its owner, Icelandic bank Kaupthing, during that country’s banking crisis and had struggled to grow in the face of a difficult market and faster-moving competition.

It will be interesting to see how Boohoo handles the brand, which has a much more upmarket image than its existing brand portfolio.

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