UPDATE: Search on for new buyer for Bennetts as 228 staff made redundant

The search for a new buyer for Norfolk-based electrical chain Bennetts is continuing today after it emerged that 228 employees have been made redundant.

The company - one of East Anglia's largest independent retailers - called in administrators PKF on Thursday afternoon after being hit by a series of setbacks, including competition from online retailers and rising rents.

PKF yesterday said 57 staff had been kept on by Bennetts while efforts continue to find a buyer - and it said there was a chance that 'some or all those made redundant' could be re-employed.

All 16 stores - including Norwich Hall Road, Norwich Longwater, Dereham, Cromer, Diss, King's Lynn, Yarmouth and Holt - remain shut and a skeleton staff has been retained while stock taking continues.

A PKF spokesman said: 'We confirm that unfortunately it has been necessary to make 228 members of staff redundant while 57 remain, but wish to point out that some or all of those made redundant may return to work if, as anticipated, a purchaser is found for some or all of the business.'

It is understood that all the shop staff - except managers - have been made redundant and among those kept on are drivers and warehouse workers, Bennetts Retail staff and head officer employees.

PKF is not giving a break down of which departments the redundant staff are from.

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The PKF spokesman added: 'The joint administrators are in positive discussions with a significant number of potential buyers who have come forward and there are more people to contact today.'

The hope remains that a deal will be completed within two weeks. It is understood that one of the interested parties is Bennetts management.

PKF is still giving potential buyers the chance to enter negotiations.

Anyone interested should contact joint administrator Matt Howard at PKF's Norwich office on 01603 756914.

Some staff have complained about the lack of information.

One shop salesman - who did not want to be named - said: 'We are really annoyed at not being told hardly anything and we are hearing more on the news. We can't understand why the shop staff have been made redundant and yet the business could be sold and the shops could re-open.

'There is a fantastic workforce and we want the chance to be taken back on. Selling a business without staff is like selling a football club without players.'

Another worker - who was based at the Norwich store - said a letter had been sent out via e-mail which said the managers would keep their jobs but everyone else would be made redundant.

He said: 'Some of us feel they have thrown in the towel too soon. Why couldn't they look at the stores which were not doing well and consider closing those while keeping the ones which were doing okay open?

'They only opened the King's Lynn one recently and it looks as if that was a mistake.'

Kenny Bowley, 28, called the store where he worked in Costessey, Norwich, on Friday and was told that he was going to be made redundant, but his manager was keeping his job.

'I am not happy about it. We were given false hope. They say they are going to get a buyer and then 24 hours later we are being told we have lost our jobs.

'I love the company. It is one of the best companies I have worked for. I liked the guys I worked for and the management. But it's the way they have got rid of us.'

Have you been affected by the news? Contact Ian Clarke on 01362 854701 or email ian.clarke@archant.co.uk.