Jobs axed as Barratts forced to close shops
Up to 50 jobs are set to go at value shoe retailer Barratts as administrators close five shops this week.
A spokeswoman for business advisers Duff & Phelps said stores were closing in Ballymena, Coleraine, Enniskillen, Bangor and Newtownards.
She said they had not been able to find a buyer for the business and assets as a going concern – but added that they were still in discussions with "a party" over some of the stores.
They were appointed to run the UK and Ireland business, including its 15 stores in Northern Ireland, when it entered insolvency proceedings last month for the third time in around four years.
With between five and 10 people employed in each shop, the toll of lost jobs could reach 50.
The spokeswoman said she had not been told about any other proposed closures in Northern Ireland. However, the windows of the Donegall Place store in Belfast are emblazoned with 'closing down sale' signs.
A sale is also being held in its CastleCourt shop, with staff there indicating they believed it would also close its doors.
Five stores in the Republic will also be closed this week. Barratts has faced growing competition from online retailers and has also suffered from the downturn in consumer spending.
Glyn Roberts, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association, said: "This is a sad loss in itself to the high street, and also a loss to surrounding traders, who lose that little bit more footfall as a result."
He described Barratts as a "well-known and well-respected retailer". "It's just said that this is happening just as the economy has taken a turn for the better.
"However, with footfall figures down 6% in November, according to the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, it still feels as if the recovery has yet to work its way into people's pockets."
Around six months ago, Barratts moved stores from one side of Donegall Place to the other, reopening in a unit formerly occupied by Clinton Cards.
It's understood it had spent a significant sum of money on fitting it out.