23-year-old Sophie Winfield has worked at Dorothy Perkins for over two years. Yesterday, following the news that retail giant Arcadia had gone into administration, she’s become one of 13,000 who are facing possible redundancy. This is what it feels like.
Last Friday night I sat down at the dining room table to share a pizza with my Mum. About halfway through my first slice, mouth full, I tried to stifle the tears that only moments later would become full blown ugly crying into my mother’s chest.
The reason for these tears was the first segment on the 6 o’clock news detailing the demise of Arcadia. The company that owns popular high street brands like Topshop, Burton and Dorothy Perkins was expected to collapse within days, taking half of the high street with it – and, more importantly, my job.
‘I’ve always known that my job at Dorothy Perkins wasn’t exactly safe’
As an employee of Dorothy Perkins, a high street brand that has seen multiple store closures in recent years, I’ve always known that my job wasn’t exactly safe. Online retailers are thriving while a continuing move towards sustainable shopping – that often results in the blacklisting of companies such as Arcadia – means it would have been ignorant of me to ever believe otherwise. What I never prepared for, however, was finding out about my possible redundancy through Sky News.
For a couple of hours, I ignored it. I thought maybe this was just some hearsay that had somehow made its way to the Sky News team. Then the BBC started writing similar articles and, shortly after, Sir Phillip Green (the chairman of the Arcadia group) was trending on Twitter. Clearly, the world knew about my impending redundancy before I did.
Trying to come to terms with this news without being with my colleagues (at the time we were still in lockdown and, therefore, on furlough) was incredibly difficult. What was even harder was not fully knowing what I was having to come to terms with in the first place. I had received an email from the company saying only that meetings were taking place. I didn’t understand the business jargon of the breaking news articles and any kind of social media search about the topic became inundated with (false) statements, such as ‘all Arcadia stores will be closed by the end of the year’, or celebrations of the demise of Phillip Green – neither of which were particularly helpful to me.
‘Ordinarily, I’d celebrate. But my income is tied to that company’
Having to deal with this news publicly – knowing at the same time as the rest of the world that I, and most of my colleagues, may lose our only source of income – was emotionally draining, isolating, and anxiety inducing. Navigating these emotions whilst people celebrated the news was unimaginably difficult, but I understand why these celebrations have taken place. Ordinarily, I would revel in a fast fashion company’s fall from grace: knowing that they did not move with the times and have now, ultimately, suffered the consequences. But my income is tied to that company, and my ability to support myself is directly impacted by this business failing.
Now that the company has gone into administration, and there are no immediate redundancies happening, I have to decide whether I should jump ship – leaving behind colleagues and a job that I, for the most part, love – or stay, and potentially end up playing on the deck of a sinking ship.
Right now, my coping mechanism is to take things day by day. I’m thinking about preparing answers for the inevitable questions regarding a closing down sale that I will receive from customers. I know that they don’t mean to hurt me by asking, but the constant reminder of the potential loss of my job feels like they’re rubbing salt in a wound. The sadness of this situation is bound to come in waves and, let’s be honest, this won’t be the first time I’ve cried behind that till point. Soon, I’ll start to think about some other routes I can pursue. It makes the most sense to take control of this situation as best as I can, which means finding my lifeboat, ASAP.