Future of shop staff in doubt

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THE future for workers at electrical store Comet in Hartlepool is uncertain after the company announced plans to go into administration.

Around 6,500 jobs are under threat nationally, including those at the store on the Anchor Retail Park, near Hartlepool Marina.

Staff were told of the plans yesterday morning and restructuring specialist Deloitte has been lined up to handle the administration.

Comet, which has 240-stores in the UK, said it is “urgently working” to save the business and it is expected that administrators will try to find a new buyer for the company.

A spokesman said: “Comet Group can confirm that it has taken steps to seek the protection of the court with a view to the company entering into administration during week commencing November 5.

“In the meantime the board is urgently working with its advisers to seek a solution to secure a viable future for the company.”

The blow marks one of the UK’s biggest retail failures in recent years, following big name casualties like Woolworths and JJB Sports.

Customers with outstanding orders and those with gift cards and vouchers are being told it is “business as usual until further notice” and that the group intends to fulfil deliveries of products that have been paid for.

The planned administration comes just months after Comet was taken over by investment firm OpCapita, which bought the chain for a nominal £2 in February.

The electrical firm was founded in Hull in 1933.

It is thought OpCapita and recently-appointed chairman John Clare had been unable to secure the trade credit insurance needed to safeguard suppliers.

The high street electricals market has come under huge pressure as cash-strapped shoppers put off expensive items such as TVs and large appliances, and online rivals take a bigger slice of the market.

The charity Retail Trust, which looks after the needs of three million retail workers, has pledged its support to all staff affected.

It runs a helpline on 0808 8010808 and also help staff find new jobs through its ReWork programme.