Peacocks and Past Times fall into administration

THOUSANDS of more jobs, including hundreds in East Anglia, are at risk after two more retailers confirmed plans to go into administration.

Peacock Group, the owner of the Peacocks and Bonmarche chains, which together employ around 11,000 people, said it planned to put both businesses in administration.

And retro-themed gift shops chain Past Times, which last week closed around half of its stores, said that administrators from accountancy firm KPMG had been appointed with the aim of selling the remaining business as a going concern.

Peacocks, which operates more than 600 Peacocks stores and nearly 400 branches of Bonmarche, said it has made the decision to call in administrations following the breakdown of talks with its lenders over a restructuring of its debts, thought to total around �240million.

It is understood that the group was seeking to convert part of its debt into equity but that Royal Bank of Scotland, which accounts for around 18% of the group’s total borrowing, was not willing to provide any further support.

Peacocks confirmed that it was in exclusive talks with a potential purchaser of Bonmarche, reported to by private equity turnaround firm Sun European Partners, but that an administrator would be appointed in the meantime.

In a statement, the company said: “The board of the Peacock Group and its advisers have been discussing for some time the restructuring of the business with the group’s lenders. Unfortunately these talks have now concluded and no agreement has been reached. However, discussions with other potential investors are on-going.

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“To protect the business whilst discussions with such investors are progressed, the directors of the Peacock Group have filed a notice of Intention to appoint an administrator. Existing management remain in place as an administrator has not been appointed.”

There are more than 20 Peacocks stores across East Anglia, in towns including Ipswich, Colchester, Bury St Edmunds, Lowestoft, Felixstowe, Woodbridge, Stowmarket, Thetford, Newmarket, Haverhill, Harwich, Frinton, Clacton, Braintree, Witham and Chelmsford.

There are also more than at dozen Bonmarche branches, at locations including Ipswich, Colchester, Bury, Lowestoft, Felixstowe, Sudbury, Haverhill, Braintree, Harwich, Clacton and Chelmsford.

KPMG today confirmed that 507 staff had been made redundant as a result of last week’s closure of 46 Past Times stores and that a further 67 people had now been made redundant by the administrators, at the company’s head office, at Witney, in Oxfordshire, and its central warehouse.

“The loss making high street business is a casualty of difficult trading conditions for the retail sector, which has seen discretionary spend fall as consumer confidence declined during the last year,” said KPMG

It added: “The remaining business, comprising 51 stores and 500 employees, is continuing to trade under the control of the administrators in the short term. There will be an orderly wind down in the event a going concern sale cannot be concluded.”

The Past Times stores in Ipswich, Colchester, Braintree and Chelmsford are all among the continuing to trade.

“The remaining stores will enter closing down mode on a nationwide basis where consumers will find significantly discounted stock,” KPMG added.

Peacocks Group and Past Times join a string of casualties in the retail sector following a brutal Christmas trading period for the High Street.

Other firms to have gone into administration include Suffolk-based Tobar, owner of the Hawkin’s Bazaar toy shops chain, outdoor leisure specialist Blacks, denim specialist D2 Jeans, shoe shops group Barratt Priceless and lingerie retailer La Senza.