Jobs saved as locker manufacturer bought

NEARLY 50 jobs at a Suffolk locker manufacturer have been saved with its sale by administrators to a storage equipment company based in Northern Ireland.

Duncan Brodie

NEARLY 50 jobs at a Suffolk locker manufacturer have been saved with its sale by administrators to a storage equipment company based in Northern Ireland.

Administrators from accountants and business advisors Grant Thornton were appointed last month at Bury St Edmunds-based W B Bawn & Co Ltd, the company behind the Helmsman brand of changing room equipment, including storage lockers and electronic access systems.

Around 60 of the company's workforce of 108 were made redundant by the administrators, although the business continued operating while a buyer was sought.

Grant Thornton received more than 20 expressions of interest, with at least 13 parties visiting the company's Northern Way site. Yesterday it was confirmed that the Helmsman business had been acquired by Sperrin Metal Products Ltd, based at Draperstown in County Londonderry.

Sperrin employs around 100 people at a number of sites in Northern Ireland, producing a variety of racking, shelving, mezzanines and lockers.

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Director Peter Gormley said Sperrin had been attracted to the Helmsman brand by its reputation in the locker and leisure trade and this was a tradition it aimed to continue.

The business was currently undergoing a restructuring program but would continue to operate from its site in Suffolk, manufacturing the same wide range of lockers and upholding the current workforce, he said.

“As a family-run business based in Ireland we know the importance of sustaining a local conscientious workforce,” said Mr Gormley. “It is our intention to continue business as usual.”

He said the merger would also bring additional benefits to Helmsman customers as the business would now be able to offer a comprehensive “turnkey” solution for all locker and shelving requirements.

“Having a business in the same line we hope that the organisation can develop and continue to hold a strong position in the marketplace,” added Mr Gormley.

* Around 300 jobs at struggling shoe retailer Dolcis were saved yesterday after its main competitor took on parts of the business.

Stylo Group, which trades as Barratt Shoes and PriceLess, has acquired the Dolcis brand and stock, as well as 24 stores and a number of concessions.

The firm was placed into administration last month after struggling amid high street competition and slower consumer spending.

KPMG, which has overseen the administration process, said more than 700 jobs had been axed from Dolcis since its collapse, with around 100 outlets also closed.

Dolcis's rival, Stead & Simpson, has also fallen victim to the recent difficult market conditions. It went into administration last month before being bought by rival Shoe Zone.