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Axe falls at Clinton Cards
Uncertainty surrounds the future of the Oxfordshire branches of Clinton Cards after plans were announced plans to close 350 stores.
Administrators said the business was "burdened with an untenable retail estate" and the move will see 2,800 full and part-time staff lose their jobs in a wave of store closures starting next week and continuing into June.
The firm operates six stores in the Westgate Centre, Oxford; Woolgate Centre, Witney; Sheep Street, Bicester; Buttermarket, Thame; Castle Quay, Banbury and Bell Street, Henley employing about 60 staff.
It is not clear whether they are among those to be shut or part of the remainder of the 784-store portfolio to escape the axe with adminstrators at specialist finance firm Zolfo Cooper saying details would not be revealed until later today. <<fri>> But all of the firm’s Birthdays branded stores will close including an outlet in Banbury.
The ailing high street retailer, which employed more than 8,000 staff in total, collapsed into administration last week after its biggest supplier American Greetings called in a £35m debt.
Peter Saville, joint administrator at finance firm Zolfo Cooper, said: "Given the sheer size of the Clinton Cards retail estate and the overall performance, we were left with no alternative.”
There have recently been reports that WHSmith, which bought the online personalised greetings card brand Funky Pigeon in 2010, is interested in buying up to 350 stores.
And Card Factory, Clinton's biggest competitor with 596 stores, is also thought to have approached administrators.
Clinton has suffered dire trading in recent months as it comes up against stiff competition from supermarkets and online retailers such as Funky Pigeon and Moonpig.
It recorded a pre-tax loss of £3.7m in the 26 weeks to January 29, compared with a profit of £11.7m in the previous year, and warned that the second half of the year would be below expectations.
Its shares had lost more than 80 per cent of their value since the start of 2010.
Last week, it revealed more poor trading for the 14 weeks since January 29, with same-store sales down 3.5 per cent.
Chief executive Darcy Willson-Rymer carried out a strategic review over the past six months, which is understood to have included a fruitless search for a buyer for all of the business or its Birthdays chain.
The group was the UK's largest specialist retailer of greetings cards and was founded by current chairman Don Lewin in Epping, Essex, in 1968.
Its collapse is another blow to the high street after recent high-profile casualties, including video games retailer Game Group, fashion chain Peacocks and outdoor specialist Blacks Leisure.