Un­cer­tain fu­ture for three city card stores

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Your Telegraph - By KEN MCER­LAIN ken.mcer­lain@pe­ter­bor­oughto­day.co.uk @Etken­m­cer­lain

JOBS could be at risk at three Clin­ton Cards stores in Peter­bor­ough af­ter the com­pany an­nounced it was on the brink of col­lapse.

The trou­bled card seller warned yes­ter­day that it ex­pects its largest sup­plier to be­gin steps to place the re­tailer into ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The move could mean that the firm’s shops in Bridge Street, Queens­gate and Ser­pen­tine Green shop­ping cen­tres in Peter­bor­ough may be forced to close if a buyer for the com­pany is not found.

It is not known how many peo­ple are em­ployed at the three stores and staff said they had not re­ceived any in­for­ma­tion from the com­pany yes­ter­day.

It is un­der­stood that ad­min­is­tra­tors will con­tinue to run the stores as nor­mal while seek­ing a buyer for the busi­ness, but it is feared a large num­ber of stores could be closed.

The re­tailer, which op­er­ates 628 Clin­tons and 139 Birth­days stores, has re­quested that its shares be sus­pended on the London Stock Ex­change.

The move comes af­ter its banks, Bar­clays and tax­payer-backed Royal Bank of Scot­land, sold the com­pany’s £35 mil­lion of loans to its big­gest sup­plier, Amer­i­can Greet­ings.

But whereas the banks waived cer­tain loan con­di­tions, Amer­i­can Greet­ings has said it will push the com­pany into ad­min­is­tra­tion.

In a state­ment a spokesman for Clin­ton Cards said: “Hav­ing se­cured con­trol of the debt, Amer­i­can Greet­ings im­me­di­ately in­formed the board that it in­tended to en­force the loan against the com­pany.

“The board has con­cluded that be­cause it is un­able to re­pay the loan, it has no op­tion but to con­cur with Amer­i­can Greet­ings’ pro­posal to place the com­pany and its sub­sidiaries into ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

John Bridge, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Peter­bor­ough Cham­ber of Com­merce, said: “Clearly the com­pany is hav­ing a dif­fi­cult time and this is sad be­cause it’s an es­tab­lished high street store.

“How­ever, it may be pre­ma­ture to raise too many con­cerns un­til the ad­min­is­tra­tors out­line their in­ten­tions.”

Clin­ton’s is the UK’S big­gest card re­tailer and em­ploys more than 8,000 staff.

Clin­ton’s has suf­fered dire trad­ing in re­cent months as it comes up against stiff com­pe­ti­tion from su­per­mar­kets and on­line re­tail­ers.

It recorded a pre-tax loss of £3.7 mil­lion in the 26 weeks to Jan­uary 29, com­pared with a profit of £11.7 mil­lion in the pre­vi­ous year, and warned that the sec­ond half of the year would be be­low ex­pec­ta­tions. Its shares have lost more than 80 per cent of their value since the start of 2010.

Yes­ter­day, it re­vealed more poor trad­ing for the 14 weeks since Jan­uary 29, with same-store sales down 3.5per cent.

The chain was founded in 1968 and by 1988 it had 77 stores when it floated on the stock mar­ket. Its store num­bers were swelled by ac­qui­si­tions in­clud­ing Hall­mark Cards and the Birth­days Group, which had 170 stores, in 2004.

un­cer­tainty: Clin­ton Cards in Bridge Street.

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