Belfast Telegraph

150 jobs lost at TJ Hughes as city store to close down

By Clare Weir

Over 150 jobs are to be lost in Belfast when a cut-price retailer closes its doors this weekend.

The gloomy news came as it was announced that the number of people in the dole queue in Northern Ireland rose last month by 600 to 60,400 - a level not seen since 1997.

There had been hopes that the TJ Hughes outlet in the Cityside Retail Park could be saved, but now the administrators of the discount department store chain have announced that a further 12 stores will close over the next few days and another 585 staff made redundant across the UK.

The stores in Belfast, Bootle, Corby, Coventry, Derby, Oldham, Plymouth, Redditch, Romford and Scunthorpe will close on Sunday August 21, the store in Hanley on Wednesday, August 24 and the store in Warrington on Friday, August 26.

Staff will be made redundant two days after each store closes its doors to the public.

While six stores in the UK were bought by Lewis's Home Retail Limited, a total of 42 stores have now been closed by the administrators and around 2,200 staff made redundant.

TJ Hughes employed 16 full-time and 137 part-time staff at the north Belfast store.

The chain announced that it was planning to appoint an administrator in June after reporting a downturn in trade.

It was bought out by its management team in March following the withdrawal of credit insurance for its suppliers in a move funded by Leeds-based turnaround specialist Endless.

Donald McFetridge, retail analyst at the University of Ulster's business school, said that the latest high street casualty will not be the last to fall and has been usurped by more more modern discount retailers.

"TJ Hughes has become the latest victim of the recession," he said.

"Woolworths lasted 100 years on the high street, TJ Hughes didn't quite make it that length as it was founded in Liverpool in 1912.

"It occurs to me that the retail life cycle is becoming shorter and shorter.

"Only the likes of Sainsbury's and Marks -amp; Spencer have beaten the 100-year syndrome.

"TJ Hughes originally enjoyed a very unique position in the discount department store world, but that market is being rapidly eroded by the likes of TK Maxx and other retail operators, like B-amp;M, who have expanded quite aggressively.

"This is yet another example of a retailer which had reached the end of its life cycle; sadly it will be missed by many consumers who found merchandise to suit their pockets, particularly in these economically challenging times."