A slump in the sale of suits and formalwear during the pandemic has knocked TM Lewin into administration for the second time in two years.
The 124-year-old company was bought in May 2020 by Torque Brands, an investment vehicle led by James Cox, the founder of Simba Sleep.
Seven weeks after paying £25 million for the business, the new owners put TM Lewin through a pre-pack insolvency process that shut all of its 66 shops and international operations and resulted in 600 job losses.
At the time Cox blamed the impact of lockdown for the shop closures and said that the brand would be pursuing an online model instead.
The shift to working from home during the pandemic and the cancellation of social events such as weddings meant that trading has failed to recover as demand for formal clothes has dwindled. TM Lewin’s administrators said that the company had run out of cash. The Office for National Statistics said this week that it would be dropping suits from the basket of goods it uses to measure inflation.
TM Lewin, founded in London in 1898, is famous for selling the first button-up shirt. During the First World War, it supplied the RAF and army with uniforms and the brand claims to have sold more than 70 million shirts.
A recent administrators’ report from its pre-pack deal found that unsecured creditors had been left £30.4 million out of pocket but said that Torque would receive about 79 per cent of its money back as secured creditor. At the time employees were still owed £1 million.
Will Wright, head of restructuring at Interpath Advisory, a firm spun out of KPMG, said: “Men’s apparel — and formalwear in particular — has been one of the hardest hit parts of the retail sector.” The administrators are now looking to sell the business. Previous suitors for TM Lewin have included Nick Wheeler, founder of the rival brand Charles Tyrwhitt.