5,000 Comet staff face losing jobs before Christmas

THOUSANDS of Comet staff face losing their jobs before Christmas as administrators to the electrical chain prepare to close the remaining shops.

Unless a last minute rescue deal can be struck most of collapsed retailer’s stores will close over the coming weeks, administrators have announced.

Deloitte said that in the absence of a firm offer it is to close a further 125 shops. This will leave 70 stores that will stay open until Comet sells its remaining stock.

The plans mean all Comet shops are likely to close before Christmas and more than 5,000 remaining staff could lose their jobs unless a "white knight" steps forward with a viable bid. The announcement comes after hopes had been raised of a rescue deal after it emerged Southampton-based entrepreneur Clive Coombes was considering making a bid.

Comet is the 29th high street retailer to go into administration since the turn of the year and the most well-known failure since Woolworths collapsed in 2008 with about 30,000 job losses.

In statement issued today, Deloitte said:

"In the absence of a firm offer for the whole of the business, the Joint Administrators of Comet have announced to staff their intention to begin closing a further 125 stores. 

"This process will occur over several weeks and will leave approximately 70 stores which will remain open until all of the remaining stock is sold.  The Company’s business support functions at Rickmansworth, Hull and Clevedon will be further reduced at the same time, in line with the ongoing retail business.

Chris Farrington, Joint Administrator, added: “We remain in discussions with a small number of interested parties and hope that a positive outcome can still be achieved.  Should any acceptable offers be received for stores we will delay the closure process. 

"Unfortunately, in the absence of a firm offer for the whole of the business, it has become necessary to begin making plans in case a sale is not concluded.  If a sale is not possible we would envisage stores to begin closing in December.”

The Joint Administrators are also consulting with employees at the firm's Harlow distribution centre with a proposal to close the site on Friday.  The distribution centre at Skelmersdale is continuing to support the store network.

Mr Farrington said: “We remain extremely grateful to the Company’s employees for their commitment and support during a period of concern and anxiety for them.  All employees will be paid for the work they do while the Company is in administration and I can confirm that any accrued holiday pay, overtime and bonus earned during the Administration trading period, together with the pre-Administration bonus that was owed to employees at the time of our appointment, will be paid to employees as previously stated.”

“A dedicated helpline is in place for all employees and the Company is running an Employee Assistance Programme to help those staff made redundant find other jobs. As part of this programme, the Company has established relationships with more than 35 prospective employers who are keen to offer roles to ex-Comet employees, and is actively working to introduce redundant Comet employees to these employers. We will also be organising a series of employment fairs around the country during the New Year to assist any Comet staff who have been made redundant and remain out of work.”


Neville Kahn, Nick Edwards and Chris Farrington of Deloitte, the business advisory firm, were appointed Joint Administrators to Comet, the electrical retailer, on Friday November 2.
 

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