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Topshop, Miss Selfridge and Burton owner 'on brink of collapse' – what you need to know

Update 11pm Mon 30 Nov: Arcadia Group, which runs Topshop, Miss Selfridge and the other brands we list below, has now gone into administration. It will continue to trade for the time being and says all online orders made over the Black Friday weekend will be honoured. We'll update this story early tomorrow with full info on what the announcement means for shoppers, including what's happening with gift cards and returns. 

The parent company of Topshop, Miss Selfridge, Dorothy Perkins, Burton and several other big high street chains says it is "working on a number of contingency options" to secure the future of its brands, amid reports that it's on the brink of collapse. We don't know for sure what'll happen, but if you shop with it, here's how to play it safe with gift cards and online orders.

Sky News reported this morning that the future of Arcadia Group, which runs the brands mentioned above, is uncertain, and it's expected to appoint administrators in the next few days, with 15,000 jobs sadly at risk. The PA Media news agency said "sources close to the process" had confirmed the reports, though Arcadia Group says its brands continue to trade and stores in England will open again next week when coronavirus restrictions are lifted.

Of course, we don't have a crystal ball when it comes to the future, but the tips below apply to any retailer and will help you protect yourself with gift cards, online orders and returns if the worst were to happen.

What are the rules around gift cards?

Arcadia Group's brands – which are Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Evans, Miss Selfridge, Outfit, Topman, Topshop and Wallis – all offer gift cards.

We've long said we're not fans of gift cards because you've no protection if the company it's for goes into administration. Administrators can decide to stop accepting gift cards in this situation, meaning they could become worthless. If this happens, your gift card would be counted as part of the debts owed by a company, so you'd be one of the firm's creditors – and as unsecured creditors are at the back of the queue when it comes to payouts, it's very unlikely you'd get your cash back in full.

This lack of protection means if you have a gift card for ANY store, you should always spend it as soon as possible – see more in our Gift Cards and Vouchers guide. Of course, spending gift cards in-store at the moment will be impossible for many people due to coronavirus restrictions, so you may need to spend them online.

See our Administration Help guide for full info on what you can do to try to reclaim cash from companies when things go wrong.

How can I protect myself when making online orders?

If you make a purchase from an Arcadia Group brand, or indeed any retailer, use a debit card, or a credit card if the item costs over £100, for extra peace of mind. This will give you some additional protection if things were to go wrong, as you could try to claim your money back from your card provider, under chargeback or Section 75 rules.

Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, if you pay for something costing between £100 and £30,000 on a credit card, the card firm's equally liable if something goes wrong, so you may be able to claim your money back from it. 

Under chargeback – which isn't a legal requirement, just a customer service promise – your bank will try to get money back from the bank of the firm you bought from. (Be aware that even if you're paid the money, the firm can sometimes dispute it with the bank and the money may later be clawed back.) See our Chargeback and Section 75 guides for full info.

What about returning orders?

In the past, we've seen issues with returns and refunds being processed when stores go into administration.

While Arcadia Group says its brands continue to operate and stores should open again in England next week when the national lockdown ends, if you do have something you need to return it's always worth doing it as soon as possible.

What does Arcadia Group say?

An Arcadia Group spokesperson said: "We are aware of the recent media speculation surrounding the future of Arcadia. The forced closure of our stores for sustained periods as a result of the coronavirus pandemic has had a material impact on trading across our businesses.

"As a result, the Arcadia boards have been working on a number of contingency options to secure the future of the group's brands. The brands continue to trade and our stores will be opening again in England and the Republic of Ireland as soon as the Government coronavirus restrictions are lifted next week."

Additional reporting by PA Media.

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