UK: Comet ‘on the brink of administration’
Electricals chain Comet today looked to be on the brink of administration in a move threatening an estimated 6,000 jobs.
The company’s demise, which is expected to be confirmed later today, will represent one of the biggest failures on the high street in recent years, and has even been compared with the devastating collapse of the Woolworths chain in 2008.
Staff at Comet stores in Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, Colchester, Braintree, Chelmsford and Cambridge will be among those waiting anxiously for news today.
Comet was bought for a nominal �2 by investment firm OpCapita earlier this year but has been unable to secure the trade credit insurance needed to safeguard suppliers.
Restructuring specialist Deloitte has reportedly been lined up for the administration and will begin by attempting to secure buyers for the company’s 240 stores.
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This morning, neither Comet nor Deloitte had any comment to make on the reports.
The move raises the prospect of a pre-Christmas rush for discounted stock as the administrator looks to wind down supplies and raise cash for creditors.
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Comet’s reported collapse is one of the biggest since the demise of Woolworths in 2008 and comes a month after the failure of JJB Sports. Other recent casualties have included Clinton Cards, Blacks Leisure, Game and Peacocks.
The high street electricals market in the UK has come under huge pressure as cash-strapped shoppers put off purchases of big-ticket items such as TVs and large appliances and online rivals take a bigger slice of the sector.
America’s Best Buy recently pulled the plug on 11 giant electricals stores after failing to make inroads into the UK market.
Comet was founded in 1933 by George Hollingbery in Hull as Comet Battery Stores Limited - a two-man business charging batteries and accumulators for customer wireless sets.
The company moved into the radio rental business and by 1939 had 2,500 accounts.
The first Comet superstore opened in Hull in 1968 and the company was listed two years later, before being acquired by Kingfisher for �129 million in 1984.
Comet then acquired Norweb Retail and increased its store portfolio to more than 250 nationwide in 1996.
It demerged from Kingfisher in 2003, with Comet and its sister electrical companies throughout Europe forming a new group known as Kesa Electricals.