Closures at Clinton Cards to cost nearly 3,000 jobs

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Nearly 3,000 jobs will be lost at stricken group Clinton Cards with the closure of 350 of its stores across the country as administrators try to shore up its business and find a buyer.

Starting next week, 2,800 full and part-time staff are expected to lose their jobs as part of a wave of closures that will continue into June.

All of the group’s Birthdays stores will shut as well as roughly 200 Clintons-branded stores as administrators try to reduce the burden of its “untenable retail estate”.

The ailing high street retailer, which has 784 stores and employs more than 8,000 staff in total, collapsed into administration last week after its biggest supplier American Greetings called in a £35m debt.

It followed months of dire trading in which Clinton had suffered against competition from supermarkets and online retailers such as Funky Pigeon and Moonpig.

The joint administrators, appointed on May 9, have been seeking to sell the business as a going concern.

But Peter Saville, joint administrator from Zolfo Cooper, said last night: “Given the sheer size of the Clinton Cards retail estate and the overall performance, we were left with no alternative to today’s difficult decision.

“I am hopeful the action we have taken will allow us to preserve value in the core underlying business, thereby allowing us and potential buyers to focus on a profitable and viable retail estate going forward.”

There have been reports that WHSmith, which bought the online personalised greetings card brand Funky Pigeon in 2010, could be interested in buying up to 350 stores.

And Wakefield-based Card Factory, Clinton’s biggest competitor with 596 stores, is also thought to have approached administrators.

Clinton 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 had 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 chairman Don Lewin in Epping, Essex, in 1968.

It has more than 50 stores in Yorkshire, employing around 500 staff, including seven Birthdays stores.

The group’s 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.

An announcement on which stores will close and exact figures on job losses will be confirmed no earlier than tomorrow.