Ben Woods, Business writer
Thursday, November 29, 2012
Administrators appeared ready to pull the plug on stricken electrical chain Comet yesterday after announcing that 125 stores would close – putting at risk nearly 50 jobs in Norfolk.
Around 3,000 jobs across the country were on the brink of being lost, while its Essex distribution centre was also expected to close.
The exact timings of the closures have not been confirmed, but it will affect 20 staff in Norwich, 16 in Great Yarmouth and 11 in King’s Lynn.
Meanwhile, the move is expected to spark a wave of closing down sales, with the electrical giant looking to keep 70 of its stores open until all the stock is sold.
Deloitte said it would start closing stores in December if an “acceptable offer” was not made for the stricken electricals chain in the next few days.
The administrators also plan to close the company’s distribution centre in Harlow, Essex, on Friday and will reduce back-office functions at Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire, Hull and Clevedon in Somerset.
The collapse of the firm marks one of the biggest high street casualties since the demise of Woolworths in 2008 and followed a month after the failure of JJB Sports.
Yesterday’s store closures comes as a major blow after hopes had been raised of a rescue deal after it emerged Southampton-based entrepreneur Clive Coombes was considering making a bid.
Appliances Online last week also confirmed it had tabled a “seven-figure sum” for Comet’s website under plans to continue the business exclusively online.
Chris Farrington, joint administrator at Deloitte, said administrators remain in talks with a “small number of interested parties” and hope that a sale can still be achieved.
But he said in the absence of a firm offer for the whole of the business, it was necessary to begin closing stores.
Comet employees are to be paid salary, accrued holiday pay, overtime and bonuses for the period covered by the administration.
Deloitte added that it has contacted more than 35 prospective employers who are “keen” to offer roles to ex-Comet employees.
Comet was hit by weak high street trading conditions, competition from online rivals and being unable to secure the trade credit insurance needed to safeguard suppliers.