Peacocks branch saved, but Bonmarche axed

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THE manager of Peacocks in Larne has spoken of her “bittersweet joy” after it was announced that the store had been saved from closure, despite the loss of other branches in the Province.

The fashion retailer, which had been riddled with debt, has been sold out of administration to Edinburgh Woollen Mill, rescuing 338 stores and 6,000 jobs across the UK. The announcement was made last Wednesday by administrators KPMG, who were called in January.

Over 200 stores have been axed as part of the deal, including the Carrickfergus and Ballyclare branches. However, it has been reported that Philip Day, chairman of Edinburgh Woollen Mill, is currently in negotiations with landlords in a bid to reopen as many as 75 of these stores.

Meanwhile, high street retailer Bonmarche, which is also owned by the Peacock Group, has also been given a reprieve after it was bought out of administration by private equity firm Sun European Partners.

The company has said it will continue to run 230 stores but will shut about 160, including the Larne store. Nine employees have been made redundant as a result of the closure of the local branch.

Peacocks manager Jackie Millar said that while she and her staff were “over the moon” that their store had been saved, she added that the closure of so many other branches had made her joy “bittersweet”.

“It had been a tense few weeks for us after the company went into administration and we were all bracing ourselves for the worst,” she added.

“Thankfully, our store was one of the more profitable branches in Northern Ireland and so we were spared. We were one of the lucky ones, and it is sad that so many other people will lose their jobs as a result of this buy-out.”

But Jackie, who has been manager of the store at Laharna Retail Park for the past six years, is also hopeful that the closure of the Carrick and Ballyclare branches will draw more customers into Larne and give local traders a boost.

Suzie Kincaid, assistant manager at Bonmarche in Larne, said the closure of the branch was a “sad day” for the town.

“On behalf of all our staff, I want to say thank you to our loyal customers for sticking by us over the years,” she added.