Belfast Telegraph

2,100 jobs to be lost as Game collapses

By Heather McGarrigle

Over 100 Northern Ireland retail workers are to lose their jobs as a video game chain pulls the shutters on 11 stores here.

The administrators of collapsed video games retailer Game said yesterday they will close 277 stores in the UK and Ireland, leading to 2,104 job losses this week.

Of the group's 16 stores in Northern Ireland, only five will be saved. Remaining open are the Abbey Centre and Donegall Arcade stores in Belfast, the Rushmere Shopping Centre store in Craigavon, Londonderry's Richmond Centre outlet and a shop in Newtownards.

Three others shops in Belfast and single outlets in Antrim, Ballymena, Bangor, Coleraine, Enniskillen, Lisburn, Newry and Omagh will close.

Mike Jervis and Stuart Maddison of professional services firm PwC have been appointed joint administrators to the group's UK and Ireland operations.

Game's chief executive officer Ian Shepherd yesterday announced his resignation.

In a statement, PwC said: "We can confirm that the joint administrators are liaising with a number of parties who have expressed an interest in purchasing part or all of the business and assets of the group."

There are a total of 609 stores under the names Game and Gamestation in the UK, with 385 staff employed at the chain's Basingstoke headquarters and over 5,100 employed in its outlets across the UK and Ireland.

Mike Jervis said: "The group has faced serious cashflow and profit issues over the recent past. It also has suffered from high fixed costs, an ambitious international roll-out and fluctuating working capital requirements.

"Despite these challenges, we believe that there is room for a specialist game retailer in the territories in which it operates, including its biggest one, the UK.

"As a result, we are hopeful that a going concern sale of the business is achievable." The group's lenders were reportedly working on plans to buy a slimmed-down version of the retailer out of administration.

A consortium of existing banks, led by state-backed Royal Bank of Scotland, is understood to be among three potential bidders, along with American rival Gamestop and OpCapita, which recently acquired consumer electronics business Comet.

Game last week said it planned to appoint an administrator, having admitted that there was no value left in the company.

The chain's demise follows a string of profit warnings and the failure of nervous suppliers - including Electronic Arts and Nintendo - to go on providing new games to the group.

The retailer had a £21m rent bill due on Sunday and faces a £12m wage bill this weekend, although PwC is expected to honour any wages owed. There is also £10m in VAT and £40m owed to suppliers.

Game suffered a dismal Christmas and was later forced to ask suppliers for more generous trading terms. But many stopped supplying it with new releases, leaving fans disappointed and adding to the group's trading woes.