Job losses feared as stores face problems

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THE future of two popular Bury St Edmunds chain stores looked uncertain earlier this week but there was good news for one later.

Staff at women’s fashion chain Jane Norman and chocolate chain Thorntons were left facing possible job losses after both companies announced that some stores would close.

Since the weekend, a sign displayed in the window of Jane Norman, in the arc shopping centre, has told customers it has had to close ‘due to an emergency’.

At the start of the week, following severe cash flow problems, the struggling fashion retailer called in administrators Zolfo Cooper which has managed to sell 33 of Jane Norman’s 94 stores, including the arc store, to retail group, The Edinburgh Woollen Mill.

Alastair Beveridge, partner at Zolfo Cooper, said: “It has been an exacting time for the company, which has a substantial amount of debt. We are pleased to have ensured the survival of such a familiar presence on the high street, while securing the jobs of at least 396 Jane Norman employees.”

But while Bury’s Jane Norman staff breathed a sigh of relief, the future of staff at Thorntons, on Cornhill, remained unclear after the company announced that it would close a minimum of 120 stores over the next three years.

Thorntons intends to increase the number of stores it franchises while closing its owned stores which means that Bury’s branch, which is directly owned and run by the company, is among those most at risk.

Jonathan Hart, Thorntons’ chief executive, said: “Our goal is to refocus the business across all channels and seek to deliver industry competitive returns over the next three to five years. Although we see the prospect of weakness in high street footfall and consumer sentiment continuing, I am confident that this strategy is right.”