Belfast Telegraph

400 staff cut as gift retailer Past Times shuts half its stores

Retro-themed gift retailer Past Times has revealed it has closed nearly half of its stores, triggering hundreds of job losses.

The Belfast store on Fountain Street was still open and trading as normal this week.

The private equity-owned group shut 47 of its 98 stores on Tuesday as it battles for survival following dire trading.

It is understood the move led to some 400 redundancies - nearly half of its 1,000-strong UK workforce.

The Witney, Oxfordshire-based group also won a 10-day extension to a notice to appoint administrators to give it more time to carry out discussions with a number of parties interested in buying the business.

It had previously said on December 23 that it planned to appoint administrators after 10 working days, but the deadline expired on Tuesday.

The group is understood to have suffered over Christmas despite heavy discounting and its range of Downton Abbey-themed memorabilia.

The business has not revealed the locations of the closed stores.

It is thought the group may yet be rescued in a controversial pre-pack deal that allows companies to buy its best assets out of administration but not have to take on its debt.

Other retailers to have been saved in such a deal in recent days include lingerie firm La Senza, outdoor specialist Blacks Leisure and fashion retailer D2 Jeans.

However in Belfast's Castle Court this week, branches of La Senza, D2 and a 'pop-up' store run by Hawkins' Bazaar, also understood to be in trouble, had the shutters pulled down.

Past Times sells a wide range of gifts, including teddy bears, mugs, puzzles and stationery.