Belfast Telegraph

Ulster jobs set for chop as Clinton Cards closes

By Claire Weir

Jobs are set to be axed in Northern Ireland over the coming days in the first wave of store closures at the collapsed Clinton Cards group.

Three Birthdays stores in Ballymena, Coleraine and Cookstown and a Clinton Cards branch in Belfast's Connswater shopping centre will have their shutters pulled down after the UK's biggest specialist cards retailer fell into administration earlier this month.

The first 44 stores out of some 350 across the UK lined up for closure will shut before the end of May, administrator Zolfo Cooper said, including 25 Birthdays and 19 Clinton Cards stores overall.

In addition there will be 66 redundancies at the company's head office in Loughton, Essex.

Further store closures across the remaining Birthdays estate and certain Clinton Cards traded stores are expected in the coming weeks, although Zolfo emphasised there was no further information at this time.

The embattled high street retailer, which at one point had 784 stores and employed more than 8,000 staff, collapsed into administration after its biggest supplier American Greetings decided to call in a £35m debt. There have been reports that WH Smith, which bought the online personalised greetings card brand Funky Pigeon in 2010, is interested in buying stores marked for closure.

Card Factory, Clinton's biggest competitor with 596 stores, is also thought to have approached administrators.

Clinton suffered dire trading in recent months as it battled against stiff competition from supermarkets and online retailers such as Funky Pigeon and Moonpig.

The group recorded a pre-tax loss of £3.7m in the 26 weeks to January 29, compared with a profit of £11.7m in the previous year, and warned that the second half of the year would be below expectations.

The card group was founded by current chairman Don Lewin in Epping, Essex, in 1968.