Ethel Austin

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Ethel Austin Ltd
Private (Ltd)
Industry Retail
Fate Administration all stores closed
Founded Liverpool, England
Defunct 11 January 2013
Headquarters Knowsley, Liverpool
Products Clothing
Website (now closed)

Ethel Austin was a British clothing retailer. At its commercial peak it operated around 300 stores. The company was purchased from the founding family in 2002, the company ceased operation in January 2013 after entering administration numerous times.


The company was founded in 1934 by Ethel Austin in the front room of her terraced house in Liverpool, helping neighbours with their knitting. This proved so successful that within five years of going into business, she had opened three shops. The business became a well-known and established chain in the North West of England and North Wales throughout the mid-to-late 20th century. Ethel Austin herself died in January 1989 at the age of 88.

In June 2002, the Austin family sold the business to a management team backed by Lloyds TSB Development Capital (LDC) for £55 million. Less than two years later, ABN-AMRO Capital bought the business for £122.5 million. In mid-2007, it was announced that the company had won the contract to supply uniforms for the Liverpool - European City of Culture 2008 event. In November 2007, the company ran new adverts on British television, which used the BodyRockers song "I Like the Way (You Move)".

At this point, the company had over 300 stores.

Difficulties and administration[edit]

On 15 April 2008, Ethel Austin Ltd entered administration, managed by Menzies Corporate Restructuring.[1] The following day, it was announced that 33 stores would be closed within three weeks, with 275 job losses, with an additional 181 employees made redundant at the company head office and distribution centre at Knowsley, Merseyside. On 19 May 2008, it was reported that Elaine McPherson, former boss of clothing chain MK One, had bought the company for an undisclosed sum, promising to return it to its 'former glory'.[2]

On 8 February 2010, it was reported that the chain had gone into administration again.[3] On 10 February 2010, administrators announced that there would be 496 job cuts in the company's head office and distribution depot. It was anticipated that there would also be 196 store closures, resulting in further job losses.

On 19 August 2011, it was revealed that Ashloch Ltd, founded by the London-based former Blackwell's director Sue Townsend, had purchased the company and the 62 remaining Ethel Austin stores, saving over 400 jobs. However, Ashloch was forced into administration managed by Duff & Phelps on 11 July 2012, after a landlord of a Manchester store called in bailiffs after an unpaid rent bill, jeopardising the future of the company.[4][5] The restructuring specialist GA Europe, a subsidiary of Great American Group, acquired the debt of Ashloch and operated the stores while the company was in administration. On 30 July 2012, Liric, a firm controlled by the clothing entrepreneur Mike Basso, acquired 32 of the Ethel Austin stores from GA Europe.[6]

On 11 January 2013, the company declared insolvency and closed all of the remaining stores closed with immediate effect.


  1. ^ "Job fears for Ethel Austin staff". BBC News. 15 April 2008. Retrieved 15 April 2008. 
  2. ^ "Jobs saved at Ethel Austin stores". BBC News. 19 May 2008. Retrieved 19 May 2008. 
  3. ^ "Ethel Austin goes into administration". BBC News. 8 February 2010. Retrieved 8 February 2010. 
  4. ^ "Ethel Austin: Entrepreneur Sue Townsend buys chain". BBC News. 19 August 2011. 
  5. ^ David Bartlett, "Ethel Austin's owners go bust less than a year after takeover", Liverpool Post, 12 July 2012)
  6. ^ "Ethel Austin rescued by clothing entrepreneur". Retail Week. 30 July 2012. Retrieved 14 August 2012.