Ishka is closing down. Picture: Instagram
Ishka is closing down. Picture: Instagram

Aussie homewares chain collapses

A popular homewares chain has become the latest victim of Australia's "retail apocalypse".

Ishka, an Australian home furnishing store, has gone into voluntary administration, with the company launching a "total clearance" sale with its website revealing "everything must go".

The family-owned chain was founded 50 years ago and there are 60 stores across the country, including 15 in country areas, with more than 450 staff members on the payroll.

Current Ishka owner Toby Darvall said a tough Christmas period contributed to the collapse.

Ishka has launched a closing down sale. Picture: Alison Wynd
Ishka has launched a closing down sale. Picture: Alison Wynd

Ishka sells handmade crafts, homewares, gifts, clothing, furniture and jewellery from throughout the world, and was started almost 50 years ago in a small workshop in Glen Iris, Melbourne.

"We have taken the unusual step for a privately-run family company to speak out during this difficult time. We want our staff, our makers and our suppliers to know we are here to help and support them. We know the ripple effect an event like this can have on hundreds of families and communities involved in the company," Ishka owner Toby Darvall said in a statement.

"Our trade with developing communities provides life options for the many artists, craftsmen and makers from around the world.

"Many of our customers have been shopping with us for almost 50 years and many of our suppliers have become family friends after 30+ years of business together.

Ishka sells handicrafts, furniture and homewares. Picture: Instagram
Ishka sells handicrafts, furniture and homewares. Picture: Instagram

"After a catastrophic Christmas and summer we realised everything wasn't right so we've been flat out working on solutions to protect staff, suppliers, landlords and creditors. We've done everything and explored every option we could to save the business and we are working very closely with our bank. This is a heartbreaking decision to make."

He said Australia's unusually challenging summer period, coupled with more than $3 million

Mr Darvall said he wanted staff, makers and suppliers to know that "they will be paid regardless of the outcome."

"They are our number one priority. We are now in for the fight of our lives to save Ishka," he said.

"All we can do now is ask Australian families to please support us, please help to save Ishka."

Ishka is fighting for survival. Picture: Supplied
Ishka is fighting for survival. Picture: Supplied

Rachel Burdett of Cor Cordis has been appointed administrator of the business, and will convene a meeting of creditors within a week.

At this stage, all stores remain open.


The announcement comes hot on the heels of a slew of other high-profile Australian businesses that folded in the first fortnight of 2020.

It started early on January 7 when it was revealed department store Harris Scarfe was set to shut 21 stores across five states over the course of just one month after the retailer was placed into receivership in December.

Just days later, McWilliam's Wines - the country's sixth-largest wine company which has been run by the same family for more than 140 years - announced it had also appointed voluntary administrators.

Then it was popular video game chain EB Games' turn, with the business confirming it was closing at least 19 stores across the country within weeks, while fashion chain Bardot is also planning to shutter 58 stores across the nation by March.

EB Games will close at least 19 Aussie stores. Picture: AAP Image/Matt Loxton
EB Games will close at least 19 Aussie stores. Picture: AAP Image/Matt Loxton

In January it also emerged Curious Planet - the educational retailer previously known as Australian Geographic, which is owned by parent company Co-op Bookshop - would pull 63 stores across Australia after failing to find a buyer for the brand, while denim chain Jeanswest entered voluntary administration that month and tech giant Bose also revealed it would close all Australian stores and 119 across the globe largely as a result of the rise of online shopping.

The total confirmed number of bricks-and-mortar stores earmarked for closure has already risen to 161 this year alone.

This year German supermarket Kaufland also pulled out of Australia before it had even begun, investing millions into the expansion before making a hasty exit this year to focus on its European offerings.

And handbags and accessories chain Colette by Colette Hayman was also placed into voluntary administration in late January, leaving 300 jobs and 140 stores in the lurch.

2020s dismal first fortnight for retail follows a horror 2019 that brought the collapse of a slew of Aussie businesses, with some international players also folding in recent months.

Last January, menswear retailer Ed Harry went into voluntary administration, and a week later, Aussie sportswear favourite Skins also revealed it was on the brink of failure after applying for bankruptcy in a Swiss court.

At the end of the month, the Napoleon Perdis beauty empire appointed administrators although it was saved from liquidation by KUBA Investments three months later.

Footwear trailblazer Shoes of Prey also met its demise in March last year along with British fashion giant Karen Millen, which in September revealed it would soon shut all Aussie stores, leaving around 80 jobs in peril.

While 21 Harris Scarfe department stores will shutter. Picture: Brendan Radke
While 21 Harris Scarfe department stores will shutter. Picture: Brendan Radke

In October, celebrity chef Shannon Bennett's Melbourne burger chain Benny Burger was also placed into administration, followed by seven Red Rooster outlets in Queensland just days later and then Aussie activewear sensation Stylerunner, which has since been sold to Accent Group Limited.

In November, it was revealed that popular furniture and homewares company Zanui was in trouble after it abruptly entered voluntary administration, leaving angry customers in the lurch.

Later that month, Muscle Coach, a leading fitness company, was put into voluntary administration after a director received a devastating diagnosis and the company racked up debts of almost $1 million.

Then it was the famous Criniti's restaurant chain's turn to enter into voluntary administration, with several of the 13 sites across the country set to close for good. It was closely followed by discount legend Dimmeys.

Leading Australian fashion designer Alex Perry closed his only bricks and mortar store in Sydney's Strand Arcade in February, announcing he will focus solely on online.