Peacocks closure would be ‘disaster’ for the high street

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CLOTHING retailer Peacocks entered administration last night, putting around 9,600 jobs at risk in the UK.

Yesterday the group’s syndicate of 17 banks assessed a £60m rescue deal put together by chief executive Richard Kirk and a mystery backer to salvage Peacocks and its 611 shops.

But it was rejected, and now administrator KPMG is looking for a buyer.

Peacocks has stores in North End, Cosham, Fareham, Gosport, Waterlooville, Havant and Leigh Park.

The chain yesterday refused to confirm how many local jobs would be at risk if the administrators were called in. An investor is still being sought to save the chain.

Peacocks has £240m of net debt and filed a notice of administration on Monday, which gave it 10 days to find an investor.

It also owns the Bonmarché chain of clothes shops.

It is looking to sell off its Bonmarché business, which has seven stores locally, as a separate company.

Bonmarché is not affected by the administration, and Sun European Partners is already the front-runner to buy the business.

It could also pick up other parts of the Peacocks group.

The news is bleak for the high street, where precincts are still reeling from the closure of La Senza after Christmas.

Rosemary Wilson, chairwoman of the Waterlooville Business Association, said: ‘If Peacocks and Bonmarché close it will be disastrous for Waterlooville.

‘We’ve got so many stores closing down, we’ve lost La Senza a few weeks ago and two others have closed down.

‘It’s a nightmare in the precinct and it’s looking very bleak at the moment.

‘All the shopkeepers are worried and to lose two major stores would be a disaster.’

The closure of Peacocks is being hailed as the biggest tragedy to befall the high street since Woolworths fell victim to the recession in 2008.

Terry Jordan, who is retailers’ liaison for the Havant Business Association, said the closure of Bonmarché would be a particular blow.

He said: ‘Bonmarché was brought into the Meridian Centre as a big name to get people to visit, so if that goes it’s certainly going to have a negative impact on the shopping centre.

‘We have Peacocks on the high street as well, and it’s yet another big retailer which is disappearing.’