Jobs threat in Bury St Edmunds and Thetford as national chain goes into administration

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THE threat of jobs losses looms over Clinton Cards after the national chain, which has stores in Bury St Edmunds and Thetford, went into administration this week.

Clintons, which employs more than 8,000 staff, say the move came after the Barclays Bank plc and Royal Bank of Scotland sold its £35 million loan to American Greetings – Clintons largest supplier – who then called in the debt.

Its latest trade figures show like-for-like sales down by 3.5 per cent.

Speculation in the national press suggests American Greetings are trying a ‘loan to own’ takeover of Clintons.

In the meantime Zolfo Cooper have been appointed as administrators for Clintons and its subsidaries including Birthdays Retail.

It said the group is the largest specialist retailer of greeting cards with more than 750 stores and more than £360 million in revenue across the two brands.

“It is likely that a number of stores will need to be closed in order to make the business financially viable. However, Clinton Cards and Birthdays are very well-known brands on the high street and we believe that there is a strong underlying core business.

“We are therefore confident that it is an attractive proposition for a range of potential buyers,” said the administrators.

Mark Cordell, chief executive of Bid4Bury which is aiming to improve Bury St Edmunds town centre, said the news was a ‘shame’ and spokes of his frustration at the effects that management of national brands can wreck on local high street.

“It is quite feasible that the Bury branch is trading at a profit but it will have to deal with the fallout of a flawed business plan by the company on a national scale.

“The frustration is that there is very little we can do about it. At the moment our shop vacancy rate is 10 per cent which is still below the national average.

“For whatever reason the company has been slightly mismanaged. It is a shame for all those that work there and if it goes it is going to impact on the town.

“Most large units like that have high rents and rates – it tends to be only the national chains that can afford them.”

He said he expected more national chains to have casualties throughout 2012 while the independent stores – due to the fact they tend to be able to focus on the performance of just one shop, would fare better.

Thetford Town and Breckland District Councillor Terry Jermy, is a director of The School for Radical Thought in Thetford (SORT IT) which is trying to make improvements to the High Street.

“The banks really seem to be at the root of the problem,” he said. “On the other hand this is just another example of online and supermarker sales hitting the High Street.

“Clintons can’t compete. It is sad as it is another shop that may disappear from the High Street.”