Suffolk: 100 jobs and six stores saved as Hughes buys Bennetts

MORE than 100 jobs could be created and six stores reopened after electrical retailer Bennetts was acquired by East Anglian rivals Hughes Electrical.

Lowestoft-based Hughes today completed the deal which will see it take on part of the assets and business of Bennetts, which called in administrators PKF on March 10.

Hughes said the six stores set to reopen would continue to trade under the Bennetts name and be led by former Bennetts director Mark Ferdani. About 10 stores will remain closed.

While Hughes said it expected to take on more than 100 staff to run the Bennetts operation, PKF announced 228 redundancies the day after its appointment, warning the cuts were “unavoidable” to reduce wage costs.

Fewer than 60 staff were retained for duties such as stock taking, but unconfirmed reports suggest about 20 of those posts were axed last week.

Redundant staff are being invited to apply for the new posts.

Hughes, which has traded for 90 years, operates 42 stores specialising in the sale and rental of home entertainment and kitchen appliances.

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Managing director Robert Hughes described the acquisition as the “best outcome for all concerned”, pledging to honour customers’ orders which were frozen when the Bennetts went into administration.

He said: “Bennetts tends to operate larger stores in out-of-town locations and is price driven.

“Hughes operates smaller stores in high street locations where high levels of customer service and advice are paramount.

“The Bennetts stores to be reopened have successfully co-existed with our own and there is every reason to believe this will continue.”

He added: “Customers and suppliers need reassurance at this difficult time. As one of the country’s largest and most successful electrical retailers, we will be able to do that.

“Hughes has always put customer service first - so while we may have no legal responsibility to do so, we will make it a priority to ensure all unfulfilled orders at the time of the administrator’s appointment are resolved.”

Matt Howard, joint administrator and corporate recovery partner at PKF, said he “very confident” that the Bennetts name would continue to trade well from the reopened stores, adding: “We are delighted that we have been able to rescue part of the business and find a buyer in such a short period of time.

“It is regrettable that we have had to make redundancies but that was due to a lack of cash available in the administration that meant it was not possible to continue to trade the business and meet ongoing wage costs for all staff.”

Bennetts’ trade and online operations were also acquired in the sale, in which Hughes was assisted by Larking Gowen Corporate Finance and Mills & Reeve solicitors.

Bennetts called in administrators after credit insurers pulled their support for the Norwich-based business, one of the region’s largest independent retailers with sales of �55m last year.

The company had also been hit by competition with internet retailers and supermarkets and weak consumer spending.