A PHONES 4U employee has voiced disappointment at the way the company kept its staff ‘in the dark’ about going into administration.
The sales consultant from Portsmouth told The News they were shocked to hear on the national news on Sunday that the store had been closed, rather than from the company itself, and that 5,596 jobs were at risk including their own.
Phones 4U has blamed the move on mobile networks Vodafone and EE’s decision not to renew their contracts.
According to the member of staff, who has asked not to be identified, employees had not been told about the meeting with EE, which saw the last remaining mobile network operator cut its ties with the retailer.
‘We all feel really let down about how we’ve been told – or not been told,’ they added.
‘It is really terrifying for me as all I know is selling mobile phones and I’ve dedicated a lot of time and effort to the company.’
‘Carphone Warehouse have opened their arms to us and offered jobs to staff but they could be in the same position as us in a year or so.’
Closed branches include stores in Commercial Road, Portsmouth; Burrfields Road, Portsmouth; High Street, Gosport; Westbury Mall, Fareham; West Street, Havant; London Road, Waterlooville; and North Street, Chichester.
Staff are still being paid until further notice and have been told they would be given details of what happens next as soon as they can.
The Phones 4U employee added: ‘Even if they can find enough profit to stay open, smaller branches like Havant will probably have to be shut down completely. They’re an amazing company to work for and are always turning over a profit so this whole thing is a huge shock.’
‘The company has apologised over their intranet but it doesn’t change the fact we were kept in the dark.’
Phones 4U is owned by the private equity firm BC Partners. The future its 5,600 employees is hanging by a thread as administrators began talks on whether any stores can reopen.
The corporate restructuring team from PwC said it was hopeful that it will be able to pay all the outstanding wage arrears but that this was dependent on accessing funds to pay for the costs of the business.
PwC partner Rob Hunt said: ‘Our initial focus will be to quickly engage with parties who may be interested in acquiring all or part of the business, and to better understand the financial position and options for the company. The stores will remain closed while we have these conversations.’
Tony Cooper, a partner at Blake Morgan, in Portsmouth, specialises in employment law. He said: ‘Phones 4U still has to see out its contracts with Vodafone and EE so there is at least some hope in the short term that staff may continue to be employed.
‘Sadly it’s a sign of the times as customers are now more likely to shop online and the phone networks prefer to deal with them directly online, there is a knock-on effect on the high street.’