Axe falls on 228 workers at Bennetts

A TOTAL of 228 staff have been made redundant by electrical chain Bennetts as efforts continue to find a new buyer.

Amid the obvious gloom of more than four in five of the independent retailer’s employees losing their jobs, the administrators called in by Bennetts said yesterday there was hope of some or all of the workers being re-employed.

Bennetts has been hit by a series of setbacks, including competition from online retailers and rising rents.

PKF yesterday revealed the extent of the redundancies and said 57 staff had been kept on by Bennetts while efforts continue to find a buyer.

It said there was a chance that “some or all those made redundant” could be taken back on by a new owner.

All 16 stores – including those at Martlesham Heath, Bury St Edmunds, Diss, Colchester and Chelmsford – remain shut and a skeleton staff has been retained while stock taking continues.

A PKF spokesman said: “We confirm that unfortunately it has been necessary to make 228 members of staff redundant while 57 remain, but wish to point out that some or all of those made redundant may return to work if, as anticipated, a purchaser is found for some or all of the business.”

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It is understood that all the shop staff – except managers – have been made redundant and among those kept on are drivers and warehouse workers, Bennetts Retail staff and head office employees.

PKF is not giving a breakdown of which departments the redundant staff are from.

The PKF spokesman added the joint administrators were in “positive discussions” with a “significant number” of potential buyers.

The hope remains that a deal will be completed within two weeks. It is understood that one of the interested parties is Bennetts management.

Bennetts’ website has been taken down and only displays brief information from the administrator. No new orders are being taken.

Some staff have complained about the lack of information.

One shop salesman, who did not want to be named, said: “We are really annoyed at being told hardly anything and we are hearing more on the news. We can’t understand why the shop staff have been made redundant and yet the business could be sold and the shops could re-open.

“There is a fantastic workforce and we want the chance to be taken back on. Selling a business without staff is like selling a football club without players.”

David Merrygold, PKF corporate recovery partner, said customers with queries over orders were being directed to a phone hotline and would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. The hotline phone number is 0845 4582000.