THREE major clothing outlets in Larne are facing the threat of closure, with the potential loss of more than 20 jobs.
The Peacock Group, which owns both Peacocks and Bonmarché, is saddled with debts of up to £240m and unless a new investor can be found it will be forced to call in the administrators.
In the meantime, 13 staff at the Larne branch of Peacocks and 10 employees at Bonmarché in the town are forced to wait anxiously as crisis talks to save the company continue.
And in another blow to the town centre, the Times has learned that Dorothy Perkins will cease trading in Larne on April 14, after owners Arcadia Group decided not to renew its lease at the Main Street premises.
The five members of staff at the store, which has been open for 25 years, are to be offered the chance to transfer to another store within the group, which also owns outlets such as Wallis, Miss Selfridge and Topshop.
John Shannon, chairman of Larne Traders’ Forum, feared that the potential loss of three major clothing stores could have a domino effect on other businesses in the town.
“The last thing that Larne town centre needs is more vacant shops,” he said.
“It is always sad to see any retailer leave the town, but to have three major stores potentially going in such a short space of time would be an especially hard blow,” he added.
“It will mean less choice for shoppers and less people coming in to the town to shop. If these outlets were to close, I would hope that other retailers would come in as soon as possible to fill the gap,” said Mr Shannon.
The traders’ forum chairman told the Larne Times: “What is equally sad is that 23 people will now be left worrying about their jobs. It is a sign of the times and this sort of thing is happening across the UK, not just in Larne.
“There are not many positive things that can be said about these potential closures, but I suppose it would mean there is less competition for other retailers in the town.”
Peacocks have a total of 27 outlets in Northern Ireland, while Bonmarché has around 10 shops in the Province.