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Chocolate chain Max Brenner Australia collapses

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The Australian arm of international chocolate chain Max Brenner, which opened an Adelaide store in Rundle Street just under two years ago, has gone into voluntary administration.

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Partners from Sydney-based firm McGrathNicol have been appointed voluntary administrators of the business, and said Max Brenner Australia’s 37 stores across the country would operate “on a business-as-usual basis with minimal disruption” while they completed an urgent review of the operations.

“Escalating costs and tighter retail trade” were cited as the reasons for the collapse, McGrathNichol said in a media release.

“We are assessing the prospects of completing a going concern sale of the business or a recapitalisation through the Voluntary Administration process,” it added.

The Max Brenner franchise was created in Israel in 1996 by chocolatiers Max Fichtman and Oded Brenner and spread across the world, with the Australian business selling both packaged retail products made in Israel and items made in its Sydney patisserie.

It employs around 600 staff, with the vast majority of the stores in New South Wales and Queensland. The first Australian cafe opened in Paddington, Sydney, in 1999.

The Adelaide Max Brenner store opened amid much fanfare  – and chocolate smashing – in December 2016, on the site previously occupied by Eros Ouzeri restaurant at 277 Rundle Street.

It is still the only South Australian store, although when it launched, national sales and retail manager Natalie Wickham suggested to InDaily that there could be more to come.

The arrival of Max Brenner in Adelaide created a chocolate cluster on Rundle Street, with the outlet just a few doors up from Cocolat and within a short walk across Rundle Street from San Churro and Steven ter Horst.

At the time, Wickam said the business was confident there was enough chocolate to go around: “We see about 7.5 million people a year going into all our stores Australia-wide – chocolate really is an addiction and we have to feed people’s addictions.”

Fairfax, which broke the news of the chain’s collapse, reported today that Max Brenner told Inside Retail Australia only in January that it was looking to open up to seven new stores this year.

However, it added that there had been indications since then that the Australian business was in trouble, including a report in August that it owed around $50 million to lenders.

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