Former Myer boss Bernie Brookes saves collapsed accessories chain Colette by Colette Hayman

Colette by Colette Hayman

Former Myer executives Bernie Brookes has snapped up collapsed accessories chain Colette by Colette Hayman from administration, ending eight months of uncertainty for the once thriving retail business.

Under its new owners, the prominent retailer — which had 138 stores across Australia and New Zealand when it appointed administrators from Deloitte in January — will be brought back to life with a much smaller 35-store portfolio.

Joint voluntary administrator Sam Marsden said the jobs of close to 300 employees would be saved under the deal, including almost 100 permanent roles.

“The sale of the business to a group of experienced retail investors represents a significant achievement in the current environment, and reflects the strength of the brand and the commitment of the group’s employees to its future,” he said in a statement.

It was unclear whether the business would emerge from administration amid the crushing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the discretionary retail sector, but while administrators conceded the collapse had been a “turbulent journey”, creditors voted for a sale to an investor team led by Brookes and Skellern last week.

Brookes has taken the majority shareholding and will serve as executive chairman, while John Skellern, also part of the investor group, will report to him as chief executive.

It’s not the first foray together for the two retail veterans, who both formerly held senior roles at Myer, Woolworths and South African retail group Edcon.

Skellern was also formerly the director of procurement and supply chain at technology retailer Dick Smith.

Brookes said the recapitalized business will look to derive as much as a third of its revenue from online, reflecting the growing importance of e-commerce amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My decision to take the majority shareholding will be viewed as contrary to the current difficulties facing bricks and mortar retail,” Brookes said in a statement.

“Owning a fashion retail chain is about true omnichannel retail; a strong online presence and physical stores. Our purchase will enable the business to land in a future post COVID-19 in advance of any cessation of lockdowns and restrictions in the future, and our core offer of handbags and jewellery will continue, with a fresh focus on the strong performing stores retained, and a significant investment in the digital space.”

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