East Anglia: Uncertainty continues as US group lines up deal for Clinton Cards

CLINTON Cards, which collapsed into administration last month, is expected to be acquired by a United States-based greetings cards firm later this week.

American Greetings, which is one of Clinton’s biggest suppliers, has been linked with a deal involving up to about 400 stores, although it is not expected to pay anything more than a nominal sum.

Ohio-based American Greetings, which owns card brands including Camden Graphics, Hanson White, Forget Me Not and Xpressions, is in pole position to do a deal with administrators Zolfo Cooper as it is a preferential creditor on Clinton, having acquired the UK firm’s �35million bank debt last month.

Card Factory, Clinton’s biggest direct competitor with 596 shops, and W H Smith have also been touted as potential bidders for the Clinton business which also includes the Birthdays chain but had suffered amid competition from online retailers and supermarkets.

Zolfo Cooper has announced plans to close all 139 Birthdays stores and around 200 Clinton-branded shops, with the loss of around 3,000 jobs.

At least 25 Birthdays branches and 19 Clinton stores where earmarked for closure by the end of May, involving around 300 redundancies, and 66 staff at Clinton’s head office at Loughton, in south Essex, have also been axed.

However, the administrators have given no time-scale for the rest of the planned closures.

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There are currently Clinton outlets in Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, Colchester, Lowestoft, Felixstowe, Sudbury, Clacton, Halstead, Braintree, Witham and Chelmsford and Birthdays stores in Ipswich, Stowmarket, Clacton, Witham and Chelmsford, none of which were included in the first round of closures.

Zolfo Cooper is understood to have set a deadline of Friday this week to agree a sale of the business.