STAFF at a card and gift shop face an uncertain future after the retailer went into administration.
Clintons, which has a store inside Hartlepool’s Middleton Grange Shopping Centre, has lost its fight for survival after its largest supplier forced it into administration.
The manager of the Hartlepool branch, which recently relocated across the other side of the mall, was unavailable for comment yesterday.
It is not known how many staff work in the store.
But it is understood that administrators would continue to run the stores as normal while seeking a buyer for the business although a large number of stores could be closed.
The news comes as other stores within the shopping centre prepare to re-locate elsewhere within the centre.
Nationally, Clintons operates 628 Clintons and 139 Birthdays stores.
The retailer 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.
Mark Rycraft, shopping centre manager, said: “It is a national issue, not just affecting Hartlepool.
“Hartlepool Clinton’s re-located from a large store to a smaller store in an effort to reduce their costs whilst maintaining a robust offer in the centre.
“But it is a national issue and we await further news.”
Yesterday, Clintons requested 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 £35m of loans to its biggest supplier, American Greetings.
But whereas the banks waived certain loan conditions, American Greetings pushed the company into administration.
Clintons is the UK’s biggest card retailer and employs more than 8,000 staff.
Meanwhile, the shopping centre is having a reshuffle with a number of stores re-locating elsewhere.
Sports Direct is having a closing down sale and re-locating to a larger store in between Bodycare and Holland & Barrett.
The new store, which will be more than double in size, is expected to be open later this summer.
Mr Rycraft said: “On the window, it does stipulate that they are re-locating in the centre and are going to re-locate to a larger, brighter store.
“They will be taking three units and converting them into one.
“What that does, along with the work being done by Home Bargains and Yorkshire Linen, is revitalise that mall.”
Home Bargains is relocating to a larger store on the first floor, taking in five units, to double their size while Yorkshire Linen is also having a refurbishment.
Mr Rycraft added: “These re-locations revitalise that mall after a long period.
“On top of all that, if you think of what has happened in the last six months, we have got BHS as a brand new tenant and we have got Market Cross who are having a refurbishment and Bright House have re-located.
“It is a sign of these retailers realising the opportunity to trade positively in Hartlepool.”
l Mail view: Page 8