South East Wales

Peacocks: 249 Cardiff HQ staff lose jobs, say administrators KPMG

A total of 249 staff - almost half the head office workforce - at clothing retailer Peacocks are losing their jobs.

They were told the news at a meeting at the Cardiff headquarters on Thursday.

The company entered administration on Wednesday after failing to restructure £240m debts.

Peacocks stores employing more than 9,000 across the UK will remain open as administrators KPMG seek a buyer for the business as a going concern.

KPMG confirmed it would keep on the remaining 266 employees at the Cardiff head office and continue to run Peacocks' 563 stores and 48 concessions as it sought a buyer

Chris Laverty, joint administrator and restructuring partner at KPMG, said: "It is with regret we have made 249 redundancies at Peacocks' head office in Cardiff, which follow a commercial review of the staffing levels of the business.

"No stores have been closed and will continue to operate as normal whilst we actively search for a buyer for the business."

'Skeleton' staff

Catrin Jones, head of merchandising at Peacocks, told BBC Wales: "The administrators called us all into a room ... and we were told that we were the ones that are losing the jobs today.

"The rest are staying on - they are skeleton staff basically staying just to ensure the company ticks over as a going concern."

Welsh business minister Edwina Hart AM called it a devastating blow.

"It is extremely regretful that agreement could not be reached to safeguard more head office jobs in Cardiff," she said.

"We are in contact with the administrators KPMG and remain hopeful that as many stores and jobs as possible across the UK can still be saved."

Meanwhile at Westminster, MPs challenged ministers to stop the state-owned Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) from withdrawing support for Peacocks.

Liberal Democrat MP Bob Russell said the UK Government had the power to step in, given that RBS is 83% owned by the taxpayer.

In a question to Commons Leader Sir George Young, Mr Russell said: "Is it not the role of government, when it owns the bank, to intervene and can we have a debate?"

Sir George said: "I would be cautious about the government intervening and trying to micro-manage lending decisions which I think are best taken by the banks."

RBS has said it had been supportive of the company but "new investors willing to inject sufficient capital could not be found".

On Wednesday, Peacocks chief executive Richard Kirk issued a statement thanking staff after the company confirmed it was entering administration.

"Peacocks is a brand with great heritage, and it is with deep sadness that we have been left with no other option but to today place the business into administration," he said.

"We have worked tirelessly over the past year to agree a new financial structure to take the business forward in the current, tough retail environment, including seeking new investment for the business.

"This is a hugely sad development for all of our stakeholders, especially our employees who have shown total commitment to the business over an uncertain and difficult period."

Workers' buy-out

Image caption Head office staff in Cardiff posted "Save Peacocks" messages in their windows

Dr Jonathan Deacon from Newport Business School suggested to BBC Radio Wales that a co-operative model might be used to secure Peacocks' future.

He said: "My ideal would be save this company for Wales, save all those fantastic, innovative, entrepreneurial, creative people in that company.

"It's got a great management. Why don't we look at an option to think about a workers' buy-out and create another John Lewis? Have a co-operative taking place."

Wales Office minister David Jones said the UK government was very keen on the John Lewis model.

But he added: "When a company is in administration it's rather hard to make the sort of calm decisions that are required.

"Certainly we will continue to talk to all parties about this but the fact remains that this company is now in administration.

"It is the administrators at the moment who are in charge of Peacocks and it is the administrators everybody will have to deal with."

Meanwhile, KPMG confirmed that the company's vouchers are no longer being accepted at stores.

"Peacocks is also not in a financial position to refund or exchange goods sold prior to the administration appointment," the spokesperson added.

"Vouchers holders count as unsecured creditors."

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