Belfast Telegraph

Friday 31 October 2014

Peacocks closes 19 Ulster stores with 263 job losses

Three of the fashion chain Peacocks' Belfast stores are due to close after the chain collapsed

Two hundred and sixty-three jobs will be lost and 19 shops will close down in Northern Ireland despite budget fashion chain Peacocks being saved from administration.

The deal with Edinburgh Woollen Mill will save 388 shops and more than 6,000 jobs across the UK. But administrators from KPMG said it had been forced to close 224 stores with immediate effect. A total of 3,100 redundancies will be made UK wide.

Only 10 Peacocks' shops in Northern Ireland will remain while 19 will close, a move which leaves 263 people without a job.

Three stores in Belfast will close - including a flagship branch in Donegall Place opened in October 2010 - two in Bangor and others in every corner of Northern Ireland from Londonderry to Cookstown to Ballyclare.

The surviving stores are mainly in the west - Dungannon, Limavady, Omagh and Strabane - along with branches in Downpatrick, Newry, Armagh and Lurgan and in Belfast's Connswater and City retail parks.

Peacocks collapsed under a debt mountain last month in the biggest retail failure since Woolworths.

Donald McFetridge, retail analyst at the University of Ulster, called the news "dreadful" for Northern Ireland's town centres.

"The Coleraine branch in particular was one of the bigger, more successful stores and I am shocked to hear it was closing," he said. "Peacocks replaced Woolworths at that site, which seems doomed to failure.

"Like a lot of stores, Peacocks overstretched itself.

"With stores in Coleraine, Ballymoney, Ballymena, for example, they were doorstepping each other.

"It will not be much comfort to the people who are losing their jobs but chains can ill-afford to over-extend themselves in this climate.

"These closures will be dreadful news for towns up and down Northern Ireland."

Edinburgh last year bought 33 of Jane Norman's 94 stores out of administration.

Fashion chain Bonmarche, part of the Peacock Group, was sold last month in a deal that will lead to 1400 job losses and 160 store closures. Private equity firm Sun European Partners bought 230 stores and will continue to employ 2,400 staff.

Privately-owned Edinburgh Woollen Mill, which is based in Langholm, Scotland, is to take on 338 stores, 50 concessions and three distribution centres as part of the deal. It said Barclays and Santander had helped fund the acquisition.

KPMG had already announced 249 redundancies from Peacocks' head office in Cardiff.

Combined with the 1400 job losses at Bonmarche, the total number of jobs lost in the failure of Peacocks is now around 4,750.

The chain, which was owned by hedge funds Och-Ziff and Perry Capital, collapsed under its £240m of net debt despite strong trading.

Its profit margins also came under pressure from the frenzy of discounts on the high street as shoppers reined in spending.

Peacocks can trace its history back to Warrington, in Cheshire, in 1884 when Albert Frank Peacock founded Peacock's Penny Bazaar.

It moved to Cardiff in 1940. The business developed and expanded in the 1990s, floating on the London Stock Exchange in 1999. The Peacock Group acquired low-cost retailer Bonmarche in 2002.

The company delisted from the London Stock Exchange to become a privately-owned business once again in 2006 and broke the 500 stores mark in 2008.

closing stores

Belfast: Donegall Place, Park Centre and Cityside Centre

Lisburn

Carrickfergus

Ballyclare

Bangor and Bloomfield

Ballynahinch

Banbridge

Antrim

Cookstown

Ballymoney

Ballymena

Coleraine

Londonderry

Craigavon

Magherafelt

Portadown

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