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In the NTI newsroom we see it as our duty to bring to the restructuring and insolvency professionals of Great Britain tales of the expected and some stories of the unexpected. There are a number circling the high streets this Wednesday evening (21 October), so allow us to get you completely up-to-date.
One of the more interesting is that Geek Retreat, a very odd store which specialises in 'all things geeky', including comics, memorabilia and table top games, says it will open another 100 stores all over the country in the next two years. They have an curious setup, offering on their website business format franchising, stating that: “the granting of a licence by one person (the franchisor) to another (the franchisee), which entitles the franchisee to own and operate their own business under the brand, systems and proven business model of the franchisor.” We investigated further. Apparently, you must be male, chubby of face, wear oversized blue-framed glasses, have both an actual and 'gaming' name (the latter such as Derekheadpopper) and a mother who will willingly launder your only hoodie if you agree she can check you for head lice once every two months.
The Scottish company currently has 14 UK sites, which combine retail space with cafes and areas to play games and hold events, but see an opportunity to open many more. This means that when you walk down your local high street next year you will have a choice of 11 coffee shops, three charity stores, a building society, an Iceland, a Sky shop (see below) and a Geek Retreat - why wouldn't the Great British public want to go 'real shopping' again once we are vaccinated and out of Europe (for good this time, right?)?
What is that we see when we turn left out of Geek Retreat? A Sky Store? It probably will be, as Sky has announced plans to open its first retail stores in what Sky News call "a boost for the beleaguered high street". Those poor northern people who refuse to be a petri-dish for the rest of the country, but have gained two new words for their vocabulary: 'petri' and 'dish', are going to suffer the prototype store as Sky said it was to start off in Liverpool next week and slowly expand the operation in the coming years "across the UK". It was unable to put a figure on the number of stores it was targeting, or say how many jobs might be created in the process, but was really excited about the prospect of welcoming us out of the rain, desperate to avoid Derekheadpopper next door in Geek Retreat.
"But what will you sell?" ask Great Britain. Sky News (who got an exclusive on this story) said (eagerly) that shops would offer lots of bright screens, quirky coloured shop-fittings, desks and dividers all selling ... its pay TV, mobile and broadband products under one roof. But hang on, they will also prove a "departure" from traditional stores (in that they won't sell anything you can put in a bag and take out in the coffee shop next door, the one next door to that, or the one three doors down).
"Is that it?" asked Great Britain.
"No," Sky answered, a little miffed, "we will also invite our customers to enjoy any number of interactive experiences. We want to be a new social hub for shoppers".
"Like eleven coffee shops, you mean?" said Great Britain.
"No," Sky said, getting rankled by now, "they don't have lots of screens and white desks and quality PVC shop-fittings."
"Will you also sell banana cake?" asked Great Britain.
"Shut up and be grateful that we are not another coffee shop," said Sky.
Meanwhile, on another high street, where something is actually for sale that you can wear, if you are 70 or above, Torque Brands the investors who bought shirt-maker TM Lewin in a controversial deal earlier this year, are in talks to acquire Jaeger, from Philip Day who has already shed Edinburgh Woollen Mills from his portfolio of cutting edge fashion brands. Don't under-estimate Torque Brands, they are headed up by the former Simba Mattress chief, and that is exactly how Givenchy, Armani, Gucci and all the other top-end fashion brands started; on the business side of a mattress, where all great ideas are hatched.
A notice of intention to appoint FRP Advisory as Administrator was filed earlier this month and is due to expire on Thursday, although people close to our Philip say there is a "reasonable likelihood" that it will apply for an extension. So, an extension it is, then. Philip is focusing all his energies on saving Peacocks, where a business person who wants to set up a Geek Retreats' franchise can go to buy a pair of 'Smart Black Lace Up Shoes' for £18 and be the best-dressed person in the group (should you get the job ... which you won't, unless you are also called 'DeaddarkFriday Laser').