Card shop jobs saved in American buy-out

Clintons in Hartlepool's Middleton Grange Shopping Centre
Clintons in Hartlepool's Middleton Grange Shopping Centre

JOBS have been saved at an ailing greetings card company after an American-based firm snapped up a number of its branches.

Clintons, which has stores in Hartlepool and Peterlee, has been rescued from administration by Lakeshore Lending, a subsidiary of the company’s largest creditor, American Greetings.

It means around 4,500 UK jobs, including those in at the Middleton Grange Shopping Centre store, have now been saved, after Lakeshore took on Clintons’ brands and assets, including 397 stores.

Shopping centre manager Mark Rycraft said the Hartlepool store’s relocation to a smaller unit in the centre may have played a part in its survival.

He added: “We knew Clintons in Hartlepool wasn’t going to be one of the shops that was going to close, so this is fantastic news.

“Because it moved into a smaller shop, it intensified the offer and reduced its occupational costs, but at the same time it has been able to maintain its range.”

It is not known how many people work at the town store.

The remainder of the chain’s 750-plus stores remain in the hands of administrators Zolfo Cooper.

Among these are the Clintons shop in Castle Dene Shopping Centre, in Peterlee, though the Hartlepool Mail understands that the store will remain open, with no plans to close.

Peter Saville, Simon Freakley and Anne O’Keefe were appointed joint administrators of Clintons on May 9, when the chain had more than £360m in 2011 revenues.

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.

The move into administration came after Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland sold the company’s £35m of loans to American Greetings.

The administrators had taken the decision to announce a nationwide store closure programme on May 16, creating a core estate of the 397 stores.

Commenting on the sale, Peter Saville, joint administrator and partner at London-based Zolfo Cooper, said: “We have always been of the view that despite an intensely competitive retail environment, and what proved to be excessively ambitious expansion plans in recent years, there was a strong underlying business contained within Clintons.

“The significant number of credible expressions of interest we received for the business we have sold, from both trade and financial buyers alike, is testament to this fact.

“We would like to thank the staff for their dedication and patience throughout what has been an understandably difficult time for all concerned and we wish both them and the new owners of the business every success for the future.”

Having concluded the sale of the core Clintons business, the joint administrators will now focus on the stores identified as part of the closure programme announced last month, and remain on the lookout for interest parties.