The Dragons’ Den star Peter Jones has bought himself another fortnight’s breathing space as he wrestles with landlords over rent cuts at Jessops, the high street camera chain.
Daily Week News understands that Mr Jones has extended a notice of intention to appoint administrators to JR Prop Limited, which manages Jessops’ leasehold stores, by two weeks in an effort to restructure its liabilities.
The extension comes a fortnight after the spectre of insolvency was raised at the chain’s property arm, underlining the grim cocktail of difficult trading and rising costs affecting much of the retail industry.
Resolve, a restructuring advisory firm, has been lined up as administrator to JR Prop.
Mr Jones, who has enjoyed a long stint as one of the “dragons” on the BBC business show, has been working on a plan to close a number of Jessops’ 46 shops in a bid to ensure the chain’s survival.
Discussions with landlords are expected to lead to a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) with creditors that would involve closures and rent cuts.
Jessops employs about 500 people in total, with an unspecified number of jobs at risk from a restructuring of the business.
The main Jessops retail operations would be unaffected by the prospective appointment of Resolve.
Mr Jones has backed companies across a range of sectors, both through Dragons’ Den and independently, and has held stakes in businesses including Red Letter Days, Levi Roots and Bladez Toys.
He acquired the brand from administrators following a previous spell in insolvency proceedings that cost as many as 2,000 jobs.
Sources close to Mr Jones said that since then, he had invested significantly in the business, including £5m in 2019 alone.
A review of Jessops’ business in recent months is understood to have led to a more comprehensive understanding of the financial performance of its store estate, insiders said.
Mr Jones is understood to believe that Jessops has a viable future in a restructured form.
Tough trading conditions, high rent costs and taxes such as business rates have conspired to leave scores of retailers struggling to salvage their futures in recent years.
In recent months, Debenhams’ parent company has been forced into administration, although it continues to trade, while Sir Philip Green’s high street empire, Arcadia, only narrowly avoided the same fate following a fierce battle with landlords.
Jack Wills, HMV and Karen Millen are among the other prominent retailers which have turned to insolvency processes in an effort to survive in 2019.
Retailers have pleaded with the government for urgent reform of VAT, business rates and the introduction of an online tax which would seek to level the playing field for high street chains.
A spokesperson for Jessops declined to comment on Tuesday.