Belfast Telegraph

80 jobs at risk as retailers call in the administrators

By Margaret Canning

Around 80 jobs are at risk after two retailers with a combined 150-year history went into administration.

Houstons Fashions - which has been operating for at least 50 years - and tiling business John Frackelton and Son, set up in 1909, appointed administrators to their respective operations this week.

The fashion chain, which had also ventured into property, said it had already shut its Ballymena shop, leading to 10 job losses.

But administrator Stephen Cave of PricewaterhouseCoopers said it had reached a strategy that would keep open "most" of Houstons' five remaining stores, which employ around 60 people in Armagh, Enniskillen, Lurgan, Carlow and Dundalk.

Mr Cave said: "A combination of reduced retail demand and pressures in the commercial and residential property sector have resulted in deterioration in the company's financial performance.

"This led to the directors' decision to appoint administrators late on Wednesday.

"Following discussions with the company's lender and key stakeholders, we have agreed a strategy that will permit most of the stores to continue trading.

"This will safeguard the majority of the company's jobs and minimise disruption to suppliers and concession operators."

Company director John Houston, who ran the firm with cousins Peter and Philip, said: "The last few years have been a challenging time for retail, residential and commercial property in Ireland and we are disappointed to have had to put one of our companies into administration.

"Including Houston Fashions, the Houston companies collectively employ over 125 people with a further 125 in our concession departments.

"By working closely with the administrators and lenders during this group restructuring, we are pleased the overwhelming majority of the 250 jobs will be saved."

Houstons' closure is the second blow to Ballymena town centre in recent weeks after Montgomerys shut its Ballymoney Street restaurant.

John Frackelton and Son, which employs 15 people, also confirmed yesterday that it had appointed BDO as administrators.

BDO said the east Belfast firm took the decision "after a period of continued losses, arising as a result of the downturn in the current economic climate".

Its bank had agreed to the move, according to BDO. Joint administrator Brian Murphy said they would "immediately engage with all employees, suppliers and customers affected by the administration".50

The number of years that Houstons Fashions has been operating