Staff still in the dark over shop’s future

STAFF at a Hyde store admit they do not know if they will have jobs at Christmas as the chain remains in administration.

Bon Marche in Hyde town centre

Bon Marche in the Clarendon Square shopping centre has been plastered with ‘closing down sale’ signs.

However, the clothing business may avoid total closure after a deal with sister firm Peacock’s was agreed.

Yet those working there are in the dark over their fate and as part of the arrangement with Philip Day, who owns sister firm Peacock’s, 30 of the most under-performing stores will shut on Wednesday, December 11.

And shoulders in Hyde are almost permanently shrugged.

Several customers asked people behind the counter if they know the date when the shop is scheduled to close.

They were all met with the same three-word answer – ‘We don’t know.’

One staff member clarified somewhat by adding: “The company is in administration, so when anything is decided, we’ll let customers know.”

The size of the signs in Bon Marche’s windows, which have ‘Closing down: Everything Must Go,’ in huge letters, are almost a source of amusement to the people who may end 2019 by losing their job.

If a buyer was not found, about 100 of the company’s 318 high street stores were set to be earmarked for closure after it went into administration at the start of November.

The British retailer drafted in advisers from FRP Advisory to assess options for its business while it continues to trade on the high street and online.

It started in 1985, with its first store in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, and was sold to Peacock’s in 2002 for £51 million before being sold 10 years later after its parent company went into administration.

In April, Mr Day, who also owns Edinburgh Woollen Mill, acquired a majority share of the business for £5.7m through his investment firm Spectre Holdings, which prompted a mandatory takeover bid.

Bonmarche currently employs 2,887 staff around the country and chief executive Helen Connolly said they had examined other options to stay afloat, including refinancing or a possible Creditors’ Voluntary Arrangement.

Tony Wright, from FRP Advisory, said: “We deeply regret that, as part of the administration process, 30 stores will close and staff may be made redundant but there remains a risk that the business could cease to trade.”

Bon Marche blamed a ‘sustained period of challenging trading conditions’ as it became the latest victim of a squeeze on the high street.

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