Yet another family-owned independent department store has hit hard times after the century-old Hanna & Browne was put into administration.
Hanna & Browne was established over 110 years ago as cabinet makers in Belfast before becoming part of Lisnasure Interiors group of companies, selling gift, table and cookware, home decor, collectables and electrical appliances. It is feared that at least 100 jobs could be at risk. Lisnasure Interiors is listed for a bankruptcy hearing list this Friday. The hearing is a Crown Creditors' Petition, indicating that the main creditor will be HMRC.
The chain, run by the Lyttle family, sold brands including Swarovski, Smeg, Le Creuset, Belleek and Stieff and had recently been holding clearance and closing down sales in a number of branches, including one in Belfast city centre.
James Neill of Horwood Neill Holmes was appointed as administrator to TB Lyttle & Sons – trading as Lisnasure Interiors and Hanna & Browne – on Tuesday.
The shutters were pulled down on Hanna & Browne branches in Fountain Street in Belfast, in Bangor, Lisburn, Newtownards and Limavady and staff were sent home.
It is not yet known exactly how many staff are affected and the administrator was not available for comment on Tuesday.
It is thought that many customers could be affected by the closures, including couples with wedding lists held in the stores.
One customer said: "I paid £500 deposit for a sofa in April, was told it would be delivered in 16 to 20 weeks as it was coming from America. I have been on the phone to them most weeks and I was told they would phone me.
"I have tried phoning the number on the shop window all day and got no reply, and my deposit was paid by debit card."
One member of staff at the Bangor store, who did not wish to be named said: "We knew things were bad but it was still a shock.
"There are people with families, people who have been working there for a long time.
"No-one knows what we are going to do."
In a sea of multinationals, the chain remained in the hands of the Lyttle family. Despite previously being subject to a winding-up order in 2011, parent company Lisnasure Interiors managed to pay off its debts. With the continuing downturn, reduced footfall and internet shopping, it's unclear whether Hanna & Browne can recover from their current troubles.