East Anglia: Many jobs at electrical retailer Bennetts could be saved under management buy-back plan

THE “vast majority” of staff at failed electricals retailer Bennetts could be re-hired under a bid by managers to buy back the business, it has emerged.

In a move which would also preserve the Bennetts brand, a consortium of directors and senior managers at the company, which went into administration last week, are preparing to submit an offer to administrators PKF to take back control of the company.

However, the proposal would have to compete against rival bids from what PKF has termed a “significant number of potential buyers”. It is thought that national electricals chain Comet could be among the potential bidders.

Norwich-based Bennetts, which includes branches at Martlesham Heath, near Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, Diss, Colchester and Chelmsford, was placed in administration last Thursday after being hit by a series of setbacks, including the withdrawal of support by a credit insurer which left it unable to secure orders.

All Bennetts stores have been closed since last Thursday, with just 57 staff retained by the administrators to carry out functions such as stock taking.

Managing director Mike Jones, who is among those leading the buy-back attempt, said that, if successful, the bid would see most of the 228 staff made redundant by PKF at the weekend re-hired, although he warned that some jobs would still be lost.

The bid would also see the majority of the 16 branches continue to trade under the Bennetts name, he added, although a number of loss-making branches would not reopen.

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Mr Jones said the plans would also see all obligations to customers honoured, including orders awaiting delivery and deposits.

The consortium is currently in talks with banks to secure finance in time for today’s deadline for bids. PKF has said that it hopes to complete a deal within two weeks.

Mr Jones said: “If successful our bid would offer continuity in the business in the same format, including the Bennetts name, and the preservation of the maximum number of staff. Unfortunately however there will be some redundancies.”

He said a number of members of Bennetts staff had offered to put their own money into the bid, which he called a “measure of the loyalty” in the company, and said all re-hired staff would see their conditions protected under TUPE employment regulations.

Mr Jones added: “We have spent more than 20 years establishing the Bennetts brand, which has a reputation for offering the lowest prices and good old fashioned service and customer loyalty.

“We know which parts of the business are profitable that we will take with us, and this will improve profitability moving forwards in what is still a tough and challenging retail environment.”

n PKF has said that any customers with queries about outstanding orders with Bennetts can call a dedicated helpline on 0845 4582000.