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Wednesday, 01 October 2014

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Cumbria's Peacocks shops staff could be thrown jobs lifeline

Staff laid off after a Cumbrian businessman’s takeover of stricken retailer Peacocks may be handed fresh jobs hope within days.

Philip Day photo
Philip Day

Related: Hopes new owner will reopen closed Peacocks shops in Cumbria

The News & Star understands that talks which could lead to the reopening of stores in Carlisle and Workington are taking place this week.

And a key element of them is expected to be whether the units they occupied until their closure last week can be secured for lower rents.

Philip Day, the Brampton businessman whose company, Edinburgh Woollen Mill (EWM), bought Peacocks last week, says he wants to save as many jobs as possible.

And his Langholm-based firm has confirmed that Carlisle and Workington – where 30 staff have been shed – are among 75 stores that he hopes to reopen. They are holding talks with landlords to save some of the 244 unprofitable outlets that were immediately closed by administrators when the takeover went through.

The moves give cautious hopes for the Cumbrians who have found themselves on the dole queue following the closures.

Carlisle’s store was in one of the main units at The Lanes Shopping Centre. Workington’s was in Murray Road.

EWM bought 388 Peacocks stores out of administration, including the one in Whitehaven.

It saved 6,000 jobs across the country but more than 3,100 jobs were lost last week – including 17 in Carlisle and 13 in Workington – when KPMG announced the immediate closure of stores that were not part of the EWM takeover.

EWM chairman Mr Day said: “A lot of the 244 stores that closed were blindingly unprofitable so we don’t want to reopen those, but if we get the right sort of deals we could reopen 75 of them.

“We will look to go to monthly rents and get a rent reduction. If we can get new lease deals, we’ll try to reopen those shops.”

The Sunday Times reported yesterday that it is thought that food retailers such as Starbucks, Sainsbury’s and Greggs, as well as discounter Poundland, may be interested in the shops that stay closed.

Mr Day also said he was hoping to rehire about 80 Cardiff head office staff who were made redundant following the demise ofPeacocks, which collapsed under its debt mountain in January in the biggest retail failure since Woolworths.

The retail tycoon told the newspaper: “We need to rebuild the team. I would like to save as many jobs as I can – the economic situation is bad enough and we could do without more people going on the dole.”

Mr Day has created one of the UK’s biggest high street groups, with a record of turning around troubled companies.

It bought 77 stores from the administrators for textiles business Rosebys in November 2008 and they were merged with the assets of furnishings business Ponden Mill to create the 150-strong Ponden Home chain. And last summer it bought the Jane Norman fashion brand and 33 stores from administration.

The closures in Cumbria bought further gloom to the high street last week after a number of high-profile withdrawals.

In Carlisle, Goldsmiths jewellers in English Street closed this month, following news that designer clothes store Jaeger and neighbour Benetton were shutting too.

Fashion chain Bonmarche has also announced the closure of its store in Workington, on Ivison Lane.

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