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Eighty jobs saved after Clinton Cards buyout

Eighty jobs have been saved in six Clinton Cards shops in Northern Ireland after the firm was sold to an American supplier.

Londonderry, Omagh, Craigavon, Abbey Centre, Enniskillen and Belfast Forestside shops are safe after American Greetings snapped up Clinton's £35m bank debt.

A seventh Northern Ireland store operating under the Birthdays brand was also saved.

Clinton Cards, which also operated Birthdays stores, went into administration last month after reporting a loss of £3.7m for the six months up to the end of January.

Its new owner's UK Greetings operation is based in Yorkshire and includes the brands Camden Graphics, Hanson White, Forget Me Not and Xpressions. It supplies outlets including major supermarkets.

Around 20 remaining Northern Ireland stores remain under the control of the administrator, Zolfo Cooper.

Four of these shops have already been closed and the remainder are under threat of closure unless another buyer can be found.

Peter Saville, joint administrator and partner at Zolfo Cooper, said: "We have always been of the view that despite an intensely competitive retail environment and what proved to be excessively ambitious expansion plans in recent years, there was a strong underlying business contained within Clinton Cards.

"We would like to thank the staff for their dedication and patience throughout what has been an understandably difficult time for all concerned and we wish both them and the new owners of the business every success for the future."

Across the UK, 397 shops have been sold to the Ohio-based company, preserving 4,500 jobs. American Greetings had been one of Clinton's biggest suppliers. Shutters came down last month at three Birthdays stores in Ballymena, Coleraine and Cookstown and a Clinton Cards branch in Belfast's Connswater centre.

In all, 17 out of 24 Clinton Cards stores in Northern Ireland will close.

The final number of stores acquired will be dependent on negotiations with landlord.

Clintons Cards stores were located in Portadown, Ballymena, Banbridge, Craigavon, Downpatrick, Antrim, Bangor, Newtownards, Newtownabbey and Lisburn, with four in Belfast - Connswater, Forestside, Castle Court and Donegall Place.