Belfast Telegraph

Greetings card group seeks to offload ailing Birthdays chain

By James Thompson

Greetings card retailer Clinton Cards has put its ailing Birthdays chain up for sale, as the group's new chief executive seeks a turnaround in performance.

The owner of the Clinton chain has hired advisers at Ernst & Young to sell the 141-store Birthdays operation. The smaller chain, which sells discount cards, made a loss of £8.6m in 2010-11.

The card group, which operates 630 Clinton shops, has been shrinking the Birthdays chain in recent years. Clinton bought back 196 Birthdays stores from administration in 2009 and liquidated the chain in the Republic last year.

The hiring of advisers is the most significant move yet by Darcy Willson-Rymer, the chief executive of Clinton. He began his strategic review after joining the group in October from the coffee chain Starbucks, where he was UK managing director.

Ernst & Young, which declined to comment, is expected to send out an information memorandum on Birthdays in the coming days.

Like-for-like sales at Birthdays fell by 2.7% over the five weeks to January 1, 2012. While the Clinton chain grew underlying sales by 0.8% over the same festive period, the group made a loss of £10.66m for the year to July 31.