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Bonmarché earmark 30 stores for closure

PUBLISHED: 11:15 28 November 2019 | UPDATED: 12:19 28 November 2019

A closing down sale is currently taking pace at the store in Westgate Street, Ipswich, while administrators seek a buyer for the womenswear company Picture: ARCHANT

A closing down sale is currently taking pace at the store in Westgate Street, Ipswich, while administrators seek a buyer for the womenswear company Picture: ARCHANT

Jake Foxford

Thirty "under-performing and unsustainable" Bonmarché stores are set to close by December 11 as a rescue deal for the troubled national high street chain takes shape - putting around 240 jobs at risk.

Peacocks is poised to buy Bonmarché out of adminstration  Picture: PAUL GEATERPeacocks is poised to buy Bonmarché out of adminstration Picture: PAUL GEATER

The clothing chain - which includes sites at Ipswich, Felixstowe, Bury St Edmunds, Lowestoft, Braintree and Stanway Garden Centre - became the latest victim of the high street downturn, after a "sustained period of challenging trading conditions" and went into administration.

But now joint administrators Tony Wright, Alastair Massey and Phil Pierce of FRP Advisory have identified Peacocks as preferred bidder for the business.

MORE - Then and now: 10 years of change on Ipswich high street (Part 3)

A spokesman for the joint administrators - appointed to Bonmarché on October 18 - said they could not confirm which stores - which employ around eight people each - were closing while negotiations are ongoing with Peacocks. However, a number of stores are holding closing down sales, including the Ipswich store.

Administrators received numerous offers to buy all or parts of the business before the deadline ended on November 15, from which they chose Peacocks.

The deal, which is subject to further due diligence and negotiations by the bidder with landlords, is regarded as the best opportunity to maximise returns for creditors and sell the business on a going concern basis, the spokesman said.

In the meantime, 30 underperforming and unsustainable stores will close by December 11, 2019 - potentially meaning staff will lose their jobs.

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A further 25 head office and middle management roles have been made redundant.

The 285 remaining stores will continue to trade, while the performance of the business is kept under review, and the "vast majority" of open stores are expected to be part of a deal from the bidder, said FRP.

But in a statement, the administrators said the future of all remaining stores "cannot be assured at this time and remain subject to negotiation between any future purchaser and landlords given the period of historical market difficulty on the high street".

Joint administrator Tony Wright said: "After a robust marketing process for Bonmarché, the business attracted a range of bids. We have now begun advanced negotiations with Peacocks on a going concern basis and aim to complete a transaction that will maximise returns for creditors, but also provide the best opportunity to keep the retailer open and protect the greatest number of jobs.

"There is still a lot more work to do before we can secure the future of the business. Whilst we are optimistic that a transaction can be completed, ultimately, it will depend on ongoing negotiations between our preferred bidder and landlords on market rents and there remains a risk that the business could cease to trade.

"We deeply regret that, as part of the administration process, 30 stores will close and staff may be made redundant. We will be working with the Redundancy Payments Office to support the affected employees."

Interested parties should contact Luke Wilson on 020 3005 4000.

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