New Peacocks owner hopes to save more jobs at axed stores

THE new owner of collapsed retail chain Peacocks has raised hopes it will be able to save another 75 stores from permanent closure.

Edinburgh Woollen Mill (EWM) last week bought 388 Peacocks stores out of administration, saving 6,000 jobs, and is now in talks with landlords in an attempt to reopen some of the unprofitable stores that were not part of the deal.

Philip Day, the owner of EWM, said: “A lot of the 244 stores that closed were blindingly unprofitable so we don’t want to reopen those, but if we get the right sort of deals we could reopen 75 of them.

“We will look to go to monthly rents and get a rent reduction. If we can get new lease deals, we’ll try to reopen those shops,” he told the Sunday Times.

More than 3,100 jobs were lost last week after administrator KPMG announced the immediate closure of stores that were not part of the EWM takeover.

However it is thought that food retailers such as Starbucks, Sainsbury’s and Greggs, as well as discounter Poundland, will be interested in the closed shops.

Mr Day also said he was hoping to rehire about 80 Cardiff head office staff who were made redundant following the demise of Peacocks, which collapsed under its debt mountain in January in the biggest retail failure since Woolworths.

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The retail tycoon said: “We need to rebuild the team. I would like to save as many jobs as I can - the economic situation is bad enough and we could do without more people going on the dole.”

Mr Day has created one of the UK’s biggest high street groups, with a record of turning around troubled companies.

It bought 77 stores from the administrators for textiles business Rosebys in November 2008 and they were merged with the assets of furnishings business Ponden Mill to create the 150-strong Ponden Home chain. And last summer it bought the Jane Norman fashion brand and 33 stores from administration.

No details were available today of the additional 75 Peacocks stores being lined up by EWM for possible rescue. Among the 224 stores not included in the deal with the administrators were those in Bury St Edmunds (which has a staff of 15), Newmarket (also 15 and Chelsmford (18).

A total of 13 Peaocks stores in Suffolk and north Essex, employing nearly 200 staff betweeen them, were included in the deal.

In Suffolk, they include the branches in Ipswich (which has a workforce of 22), Felixstowe (14), Woodbridge (10), Stowmarket (14), Lowestoft (21) and Haverhill (13).

In north and mid Essex, Peacocks stores remaning open include those in Colchester (with 21 staff), Clacton (15), Frinton (13), Harwich (14), Braintree (12), Witham (12) and Maldon (nine).