It has been a bad week for UKPLC with a range of job losses in traditional businesses as the UK realigns itself for the digital age and lower economic demand.
United Carpets the flooring and bed chain employing more than 400 staff in 72 stores, which went into temporary administration , was immediately bought back out by the firm which is now holding talks with landlords to reduce rents at its stores.But United Carpets said landlords had so far been unwilling to lower rents and confirmed it would need to shut stores where agreement cannot be reached.
The chain joins a growing list of retailers who have fallen victim to difficult high street conditions. JJB went into administration on Monday with the loss of 2,200 jobs and Optical Express announced 40 store closures earlier this week after a subsidiary was also placed in administration.
Job losses are set to be announced by a leading building products firm after a fall in demand. Hanson has told its workers that demand for its core products, including asphalt, concrete and cement, had fallen by more than 10% during the year and that 2013 was likely to be worse.
The company said it would have to take steps to balance the size of the business by reducing capacity and bringing overheads into line, moves that would “inevitably” result in job losses. An announcement on restructuring proposals will be made by the end of October, with no details available yet on the number of job losses, but discussions have been going on for months.
Waverley TBS, one of the UK’s largest wholesalers and distributors of alcoholic and soft drinks, employed 830 staff at 18 sites across the UK, is another casualty. Deloitte was appointed administrators to Waverley, which supplies clients including Thorpe Park and Madame Tussauds parent company Merlin Entertainment. Deloitte said it was in talks with a number of interested buyers for Waverley and is continuing to trade the business while it seeks to secure a rescue deal.
The collapse comes only two years after private equity group Manfield Partners bought the business from Heineken, with aims to revive declining sales. Waverley was originally the wholesale arm of Scottish and Newcastle, which was taken over by Heineken in 2008, in a joint deal with Carlsberg.
Manfield Partners said Waverley fell victim to a tough pubs and restaurants market as consumers rein in their spending.
Unfortunately there will be more to follow.
At the same time there remain skills shortages. Engineering is much talked about and civil engineering appears to be making a slow comeback. The care sector is desperately short of people but constrained by the ability to pay market rates. Specialist areas like the garment trade can’t recruit unless they turn to Eastern Europe as we no longer have the sewing skills locally.
It is very much a case of a two speed economy at present and until consumer confidence and spending returns the rocky ride will continue.
Whilst we appear to be through the double dip, a triple dip is certainly on the cards.
Author: Chris Slay
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