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With fashion chain Republic entering administration it came as no surprise that their website was taken down hours after the announcement.

Ecommerce sales stopped, pages dropped out of the Google index and their branding looked awful on the holding page.

Meanwhile its high street stores continued to trade whilst the Administrators decided what to do next, which begs the question: why?

Republic Closed

It's even more confusing when you consider what the administrators for Republic had to say.

It has a powerful website offering, owns well-known brand names, and has some very attractive and profitable stores.

Although they've acknowledged the strength of the website, it's still been closed down. Madness. 

In fact, a strong website is one of the most valuable assets a brand can have and yet it feels like administrators are being very quick to shut them down, 302 all the content and focus on other priorities.

Yet with administration often taking months, what's the harm in allowing online orders to continue? It keeps customers buying from the brand, shows a 'business as usual' image which is vital in keeping consumer trust, and most important of all, provides a lifeline for the business in ensuring a steady cash flow.

It's not like the retail stores all closed their doors at the same time.

HMV Closed

Yet this is the default strategy for almost all of the companies that have entered administration for the last 12 months. HMV, Republic, Jessops and Comet all have 302 redirects that take people to landing pages.

Although a 302 redirect is temporary - in effect it's telling search engines that pages may be back soon - there's no denying that it will have an effect at least in the short term if a domain was to be switched back on. 

So why is it done?

Quite frankly it feels like a knee-jerk reaction to the situation. When JJB Sports went bankrupt it sold the Sports Direct part of the business. Within hours jjbsports.com redirected to sportsdirect.com.

In itself this is not a totally horrible mistake, but the URLs don't update so pages exist at both URLs (e.g. http://www.jjbsports.com/accessories). There's no canonical tags and nothing to differentiate between the two locations. It's duplicate content on a massive scale.

Yet from an administrators point of view they've done their job and can move on, unaware there is a massive issue sitting unresolved (and still not fixed after six months).

GAME handled this a lot better and when it closed its other business, Gamestation. It redirected and rewrote the site URLs. It's not quite perfect - if a page can't be found on GAME.co.uk then the user gets taken to the Home page and the URL doesn't update (such as this URL) but it's a step forward compared to the JJB Sports 'solution'.

Jessops Not Closed

Jessops was faced with an interesting challenge when it closed. The retail stores were bankrupt, but the company still had a profitable photo website.

The solution was to 302 the entire Jessops website to a landing page - apart from the photo section which sits at http://photo.jessops.com/. The landing page states very clearly that the photo section remains open and users can sign up to be notified when the new website is launched.

This is a fantastic solution as the site is collecting leads and not sacrificing a successful channel whilst it decides on the next steps. 

Blockbusters Open

If you look at the Blockbuster website then it seems like business as usual. You can still order DVDs from the rental service and can still buy games and movies through stores.

Whilst I'd also like to see a notice on there with some news about the retail stores, this is a fantastic solution for keeping customers shopping online. As Blockbuster's website is likely part of the core that remains profitable, it's a fantastic way to ensure it remains that way. 

Based on these solutions it's easy to see what Republic is missing. The site could be collecting email addresses to notify people if things return to normal. It could potentially take online orders like Blockbuster, and could do a much better job of keeping branding intact than a stretched logo.

Every day that passes by they are losing money and brand equity, as well as wasting one of their strongest assets. For a business in need of recovery, the best thing they could do right now may be to switch the website back on.

Thanks to Pete Handley and Dan Barker and Paul Martin for kick starting this discussion.

Mike Essex

Published 15 February, 2013 by Mike Essex

Mike Essex is Online Marketing Manager at Koozai Ltd and a contributor to Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter

7 more posts from this author

Comments (18)

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Jonathan Bowen

I suspect the main reason, in a lot of cases, is that many retailers use a 3rd party platform to host their website, e.g. Fresca, Venda, etc. The retailer is probably already in debt to the platform provider, so the platform provider is already looking at writing off some debt. The administrator can't or won't a) pay off the debt or b) make future payments. What's the platform provider to do? Taking down the site is the only option. Agree that there's no excuse, though, for not putting up a sensible holding page to capture email addresses, provide relevant info and so on, even if the site can't trade.

over 3 years ago

Mike Essex

Mike Essex, Marketing & Comms Manager at Petrofac

Hi Jonathan. Thanks for the feedback, that's not an angle I had thought of but is a very good one. It's certainly not the first time I've heard of hosts suspending websites for non payment.

Another factor could be that they don't want the issue of online returns and that often the first layoffs occur at Head Office where a lot of the web staff work so there'd be noone to manage it.

over 3 years ago

Tim Holmes

Tim Holmes, Managing Director at McMahon & Holmes Ltd

Could it also be due in part to Postage costs.

I would imagine even though they may offer Free postage via their online stores the carrier will still charge them per sku for this service when dispatched from their warehouses and alike.

Retail shops still also have stock in place with no carrier charges. AS such it is an immeadiate cost/overhead reduction.

over 3 years ago

Mike Essex

Mike Essex, Marketing & Comms Manager at Petrofac

Postage costs are certainly a factor. As orders are paid for upfront they'd receive money fairly quickly from the order so on the whole they should have the funds to cover an item - unless it was a loss leader. However I agree there could be issues if items were returned as that would incur a loss and in the clothing industry especially there is a very high percentage of returns.

over 3 years ago

Carl Duncker

Carl Duncker, Digital Marketing Consultant at Maverick Digital Media

Having worked on a major SEO project recently it's clear to me more than ever that senior level managers do not understand the work and resources required for a website to become an asset.

They know it is valuable but don't treat it as valuable because they don't understand it.

In these high street collapses, administrators should appoint a senior individual with knowledge of digital marketing and the authority to say no if the asset are to be protected.

Unfortunately, buyers are as ignorant too so they think they'e buying a great asset. But if it's damaged in the process, it's a bit like the guy who bought London Bridge thinking he was getting Tower Bridge. Lack of due diligence can be costly.

over 3 years ago



Jonathan and Tim are both on the money. The same 'ransom creditor' issue goes for fulfilment houses. Additionally, there's the issue of the administrator being liable for returns post-administration.

However, more fundamentally, the ecommerce operations of many retailers that hit the buffers are so structurally unsound that they are actually making a loss on every online sale so the administrator is duty bound to switch it off. You'd be surprised!

over 3 years ago


Illiya Vjestica

Great post Mike. I couldn't agree more taking down the Republic site is utter madness. Why? It's actually one of the better designed fashion sites in terms of usability. I'm also pretty sure their e-mail channel converts well, having been a subscriber for a long time.

Having bought from them before online now I have no real reason to return as I don't get in store often enough.

The same can be said about HMV - why not discount old stock and sell it cheap online. Makes sense if your trying to raise some funds to keep the company going.

As you state GAME did a better job with their website - in fact one could argue that the website saved them in the way. I found some right gaming deals on there whilst they were working to shift old products lines. It was well thought out to me. It's just a shame they continue to have the most expensive prices for games in the UK, even online, there are few decent discounts.

I've also noticed that the way administrators take down the sites and the holding pages they put up in place are ugly, crass and really don't look professional in terms of keeping a dialogue open with customers.

There are so many better ways to do this. I do wonder how some people get jobs working for these companies, as most of the time the business decision make very little economical sense.

over 3 years ago



When a business goes into administration there are certain procedures and protocols that *MUST* be followed. These are extremely complex and differ depending on the type of administration the business has entered. Taking the transactional website offline certainly isn't "A knee-jerk reaction'. I say this as someone who works within liquidation.

over 3 years ago

Mike Essex

Mike Essex, Marketing & Comms Manager at Petrofac

Thanks Jadad. That's exactly the response I was hoping for as I suspected there were other legal reasons but could find no evidence to support that.

Could you highlight one or two reasons as to why in a given circumstance they would have to take a site down, or any example scenarios (no need to name brands)? Whilst I certainly can see a lot of negatives in doing it (hence the post) any knowledge you can share on why it is done would be very useful.

over 3 years ago


George Marshall

As well as the legal requirements regarding entering administration, other aspects have to be considered such as distance selling regulations, customers' ability to return items and so on.

Republic's site hasn't been taken down as is suggested in comments above. It is being used to inform customers that the business is in administration AND direct those customers to stores where a Sale is now in progress. I don't see what more the administrators can do in the circumstances.

In some cases it is very clear tat administrators do not realise the value of online elements of a business. I myself have approached the administrator of a national company that went into administration, offering to but the domain name. I was told that my offer had not unsuccessful because a better offer had been accepted. A few months later that domain name was allowed to expire. When I then contacted the administrator to point this out, silence.

over 3 years ago

Eoin Kenneally

Eoin Kenneally, Ecommerce Consultant at Consultant

Being one of the unlucky ones that just got made redundant by the administrators, one of the primary reasons the site went offline is that the products are stored and despatched from a third party warehouse. In the event of administration that facility closes. The company had its own software to replace venda and I'm sure the administrators would have been able to keep it open had the warehouse not been in other peoples hands.

over 3 years ago


Jason Ojukwu

I agree with the points that Jadad, Jonathan and Tim have made. However, visits and other web analytics prior to and during administration should be taken into account when trying to attract potential buyers. Often intangible assets such as trademarks and brand assets (online and offline) are not considered.

over 3 years ago

Mark Pinkerton

Mark Pinkerton, Director of Optimisation at Practicology

Great comments so far - I still think it makes little or no sense to close the website if you are trying to sell the business as a going concern rather than chop it up and sell off piecemeal. Particularly when the website may account for 25% of the total sales (and probably does in Republic's case given the target market and quality of the website offering on the new ATG platform).

I understand the third party warehouse issues, but the inventory must still belong to Republic? And finding an efficient way to sell it off must be in the administrators' interests.

over 3 years ago


Simon Kenworthy, Digital Marketing Consultant at 9xb.com

It seems Republic administrators have taken notice and now have a better landing page live

over 3 years ago

Seema Kumari

Seema Kumari, Head of Digital Marketing at Hearst Magazines

Great post and many valid points made.
@Carl totally agree that during high street collapses, administrators should appoint a senior marketer to make decisions about the website and other online elements. I recall La Senza’s website remained open during the very public administration process and as a result, received an influx in sales to the point where all products had sold from their website within days! If there aren’t any political/contractual/vendor agreements in place which force the closure of the site I strongly believe the site should remain business as usual.

over 3 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Morning all,

Really interesting discussion.

Without knowing the full facts about the profitability of the online channel, it's hard to determine whether putting the site on hold is sensible or not. It's not such a simple decision as many of you allude to.

From a purely brand/customer perspective, it is madness. Attention spans are fickle online and once people see a dead-end, they're unlikely to come back again, so will go to the competition.

However, as @Mark points out, if Administrators want to sell the business as a going concern and the website is a key part, then it could put potential investors off if the web experience is destroyed and customers are lost. Much harder to win them back + expensive to rebuild the revenue stream.


over 3 years ago

Richard Bundock

Richard Bundock, Managing Director at Cohaesus


It looks as if the government is legislating to stop sites being shutdown when a company enters administration:



over 3 years ago


Mark Bolitho, New Business Director - Ecommerce at more2

A couple of comments here highlight a possible train of thought of administrators.

With no website, it's impossible for overtrading to happen via the web.

Administrators will want to avoid that headache if at all possible.

over 3 years ago

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