Fresh fears over jobs at Peacocks as buyers drop out of race

THOUSANDS of staff at collapsed retailer Peacocks were facing further uncertainty today after it was reported that only one company remains in the race to salvage the firm.

Peacocks, which has 563 stores and 48 concessions, and parent company the Peacock Group, collapsed under a debt mountain last month in the biggest retail failure since Woolworths, placing 7,500 jobs in jeopardy.

Indian textile and clothing giant S Kumars Nationwide (SKNL) is understood to be the only remaining suitor for the business after interest from bid rivals Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Pakistani clothing giant Alshair Fiyaz faded, according to a report in The Times.

A spokesman for Peacocks administrator KPMG, which is thought initially to have received serious expressions of interest in from up to six potential buyers, declined to comment.

The Peacocks chain includes more than 40 stores in the East of England. Its network in Suffolk includes branches in Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, Lowestoft, Felixstowe, Woodbridge, Stowmarket, Newmarket and Haverhill while in north and mid Essex it has stores in Colchester, Chelmsford, Clacton, Frinton, Harwich, Braintree, Witham and Maldon.

Peacocks can trace its history back to Warrington, in Cheshire, in 1884 when Albert Frank Peacock founded Peacock’s Penny Bazaar. In 1940, his son Harold moved the business to its current base in Cardiff.

The business developed and expanded in the 1990s, floating on the London Stock Exchange in 1999. The Peacock Group acquired low-cost retailer Bonmarche in 2002.

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The company delisted from the Stock Exchange to become a privately-owned business once again in 2006 and broke the 500 stores mark in 2008.

But despite strong trading, the company, owned by hedge funds Och-Ziff and Perry Capital, has suffered as its profit margins came under pressure from the frenzy of discounts on the high street being offered by retailers desperate to drum up trade. The retailer also racked up �750 million of borrowings.

KPMG has already announced 249 redundancies from Peacocks head office in Cardiff.

Fashion chain Bonmarche, which was part of the Peacock Group, was sold last month in a deal that will lead to 1,400 job losses and 160 store closures, including branches in Sudbury and Harwich. Private equity firm Sun European Partners bought 230 stores and will continue to employ 2,400 staff.