Belfast Telegraph

UK retail chain shuts two Northern Ireland outlets

By Heather McGarrigle

A UK retail chain has closed its two Northern Ireland stores. Life and Style Retail's branches in Belfast's Kennedy Centre and on Bangor's Main Street, are among the most recent round of closures after the fashion chain entered administration on June 10.

The latest development saw 12 shops close their doors and 181 staff made redundant across the UK.

The company ran 91 stores and has made a total of 440 staff redundant since entering administration, according to a spokesman for the shopworkers' union Usdaw.

A total of 34 stores have closed in total, he said.

However, at this point in time, it is not yet known exactly how many staff in Northern Ireland have lost their jobs.

The Belfast office of Usdaw were unable to comment on the redundancies as none of Life and Style's Northern Ireland employees are currently members of the union.

Kennedy Centre management and Life and Style were both contacted for comment but had not responded at the time of going to press. The store opened there last October.

Simon Bonney, Peter Hughes-Holland and Tom MacLennan of RSM Tenon have been appointed joint administrators of Life and Style.

Simon Bonney said in a statement: "Regretfully, to ensure the long-term future of the overall business we have had no alternative but to close further stores."

RSM Tenon have told Usdaw they remain in talks with at least one party interested in buying the remainder of the business.

Usdaw national officer John Gorle said: "We have been urging the administrators to keep all stores open while a buyer is sought but once again stores have been closed and more loyal staff made redundant with barely any notice and absolutely no consultation with their union.

The latest stores to close in the rest of the UK were in Ashington, Fort William, Gravesend, Great Yarmouth, Johnstone, Leven, Livingstone, Orpington, Reading and Watford.

Life and Style Retail Ltd, based in Altrincham, Greater Manchester, was formed from the remnants of the Ethel Austin fashion chain, which collapsed in March 2010.

Elaine McPherson, formerly the chief executive of Ethel Austin, bought nearly 100 of its stores from administrators and gave it a new name, saving 1,183 jobs.

She also bought the assets of sister company, homewares retailer Au Naturale.