Suffolk and Essex: Thousands of jobs to go as Focus DIY stores start closing down sales

AROUND 3,000 people, including up to 167 in Suffolk and north Essex, are likely to lose their jobs after the administrators of the struggling Focus DIY chain announced the start of closing down sales.

The administrators, from accountancy firm Ernst & Young, have agreed the sale of 55 Focus stores in deals with rival DIY groups Kingfisher and Travis Perkins and discount homewares retailer B&M Bargains, potentially safeguarding up to 900 jobs.

But they said yesterday that they had been unable to find a buyer for the business as a going concern and closing-down sales would start this weekend.

In Suffolk, Focus has stores at Martlesham Heath, near Ipswich (which has a workforce of 27), Sudbury (22), Haverhill (33), Beccles (20) and Lowestoft (15), while in north Essex its locations include Harwich (with a workforce of 17) and Maldon (33).

Closing-down sales will take place at all 178 Focus stores, including those for which buyers have been found although Ernst & Young has declined to reveal the identity of these branches due to reasons of commercial confidentiality.

Travis Perkins is to acquire 13 of the stores, which it plans to rebrand under its Wickes format, retaining all 345 staff, and B&M is to buy 11 branches, securing 211 jobs.

Kingfisher, owner of B&Q, is to acquire 31 Focus stores but it has said that staff will have to reapply for their jobs.

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Around 100 staff at Focus’s head office in Crewe have already been made redundant and the remaining 180 staff are also at risk of losing their jobs.

Focus fell into administration earlier this month after it was hit by low consumer confidence and a weak housing market, which have affected sales and margins.

Customers with queries about outstanding orders should call 0800 436436 (freephone) or 01270 503454 (calls charged at local rates), or email .