Belfast Telegraph

200 Northern Ireland jobs in the balance as Toys R Us and Maplin collapse

By Andrew Madden

Around 200 retail jobs in Northern Ireland - and thousands UK-wide - are at risk after two of the high street's best-known names collapsed.

Toys R Us, which operates four stores here, went into administration yesterday after the embattled firm failed to find a last-minute buyer to save the company.

Rescue talks to save faltering electronics chain Maplin, which has five stores here, broke down on Tuesday night and administrators were called in yesterday.

The failure of both companies has put as many as 5,500 jobs at risk across the UK.

The local Toys R Us stores are at CastleCourt Shopping Centre in Belfast, Newtownabbey, Londonderry and Lisburn.

Aodhan Connolly of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium said the UK Government needed to "deliver a business tax system that works to support modern retailing, not undermine it".

In December a last-minute restructuring saved Toys R Us from collapse.

However, a quarter of stores were to close as part of the deal, including those in Derry and Newtownabbey.

Maplin's five local stores are at Belfast International Airport, Connswater Shopping Centre and Boucher Road in Belfast, Derry and Coleraine.

Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts said it was a "sad day".

He added that neighbouring businesses would be affected from a loss of footfall resulting from closures following the administrations.

Toys R Us has 105 UK stores and is a subsidiary of the US company of the same name, which filed for bankruptcy in North America last year after amassing $5 billion (£3.7bn) of debt.

The UK firm was struggling with the rise in online shopping and was facing a £15m tax bill, on top of millions owed to lenders. Administrator Moorfields Advisory has started an "orderly wind-down" of the company's stores.

Maplin, which is owned by the private equity investor Rutland Partners, has been struggling to find new funding since last autumn, when it lost its credit insurers. That meant suppliers demanded cash payment for stock upfront rather than one to three months after delivery.

Sales fell by 7% over the Christmas period, partly because the shops were short of stock as a result of its credit insurance problem.

Chief executive Graham Harris said it had been struggling with the devaluation of the pound after the Brexit vote, a weak consumer environment and the withdrawal of credit insurance.

Belfast Telegraph

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