Shirt maker TM Lewin has collapsed for the second time in less than two years as demand for suits and formal tailoring fails to recover after pandemic.
The 124-year-old brand has appointed insolvency specialists at Interpath Advisory, putting 49 jobs at risk.
The administrators will now seek buyers for the business or its assets.
TM Lewin was popular with City workers before the pandemic struck, but it has had a torrid period since as staff continue to work from home.
Will Wright at Interpath said a slow return to the office and restrictions on large events and social gatherings had had a “severe” impact on sales.
“While social distancing measures were lifted in early 2022, the cumulative impact on the company’s cash flow was such that, after exploring options for the business, the decision was taken to place the company into administration,” he said.
It comes days after the suit was deemed to be a non-essential by the Office for National Statistics. The rise of working from home and the relaxation of office dress codes has led to their removal from the basket of goods the ONS uses to calculate the Consumer Prices Index. Meanwhile, items such as sports bras and vegetarian sausages have been added.
Mr Wright added: “Unfortunately, and despite the company undergoing a significant restructuring at the start of the pandemic which saw it move to an online model, the impact on this famous British brand has been severe. Our immediate priority is to explore options for the business, including a sale of the business and its assets.”
Rival shirt maker Thomas Pink also fell victim to the pandemic, closing its stores and online operations, although its website returned late last year.
Last year Marks & Spencer decided to slash the number of stores that stock men’s suits following the pandemic decline in office wear. They are now available at less than half the 250-odd stores that sell clothing.
TM Lewis was founded in Mayfair in 1898 and is known for selling the first button-up shirt. During the First World War, it supplied the RAF and British Army with uniforms and the brand claims to have sold more than 70m shirts in its history.
Before the pandemic, the company had more than 150 shops worldwide, but after the initial shock of Covid and lockdown restrictions it was placed into administration.
About 600 workers lost their jobs after the company said it would close all 66 of its UK shops in June 2020.
Staff criticised the redundancy process at the time after being told they would lose their jobs on two conference calls with less than 30 minutes’ notice.
TM Lewin said it could not afford the rent bill and other costs for its stores, which were forced to shut when it first collapsed.
Owner Torque Brands, an investment vehicle for private equity firm Stonebridge, bought the assets, but not the shops, through a pre-pack administration a month after it acquired the retailer from Bain.
Torque was then-led by Simba Sleep co-founder James Cox and is backed by former Asda boss Allan Leighton and Paul Taylor, who previously ran Harrods.
It worked with advisors at ReSolve on the pre-pack deal, which allows a company to jettison its debts.
Unsecured creditors were reportedly left £30m out of pocket following the administration. Employees were reportedly owed £1m in outstanding wages, holiday pay and pension arrears at one point.