Peacocks jobs still in the balance despite ‘huge’ interest from potential buyers

THE future of hundreds of jobs at Peacocks fashion stores across the eastern region remains in doubt despite “huge interest” from potential purchasers of the value retail chain.

Peacocks, which has 563 stores and 48 concessions across the UK, collapsed into administration last week under the weight of a �750million debt mountain.

The administrators from KPMG have so far continued to operate all of the stores, although 249 workers at the Peacocks Group head office in Cardiff have been made redundant.

Fashion chain Bonmarch�, which was also part of the Peacocks Group, escaped administration and was sold earlier this week in a deal that will lead to 1,400 job losses and 160 store closures. Private equity firm Sun European Partners bought 230 Bonmarch� stores and will continue to employ 2,400 staff.

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.

KPMG said there had been more than 100 conversations with potential buyers of the Peacocks chain which, including head office staff, has a total workforce of around 9,600 at the time it entered administration.

Chris Laverty, joint administrator and restructuring partner at KPMG, said: “We have received huge interest from potential acquirers of Peacocks, following our appointment last week.”

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Peacocks reported strong trading over the Christmas period, with like-for-like sales up 17%, helped by a collaboration with singer-turned-fashion designer Pearl Lowe.

But the company, owned by hedge funds Och-Ziff and Perry Capital, still 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.

Mr Laverty added: “Whilst the capital structure was not sustainable, the underlying business has a loyal customer base evidenced by strong sales levels in store since our appointment.”

The administrators have set a deadline of Monday for potential bids to be submitted.

Retailers including Poundland and Tesco have been reported to be eyeing up parts of the store portfolio in the event a buyer for all or part of the struggling chain as a going concern is not found, but the Financial Times has suggested that around 200 Peacocks stores could close under these circumstances.