Austin Reed to cut clothes jobs

AUSTIN REED, the clothing group, yesterday said it would have to cut up to 250 jobs from its plant at Crewe, signalling the end of its machine-made clothing operation in the UK.

The redundancies follow a decision earlier this year to close a factory in Donegal making Stephen Brothers shirts, resulting in136 job losses.

The retailer is keeping its upmarket clothing business at the Crewe site, where suits are hand-tailored under the Chester Barrie brand. Colin Evans, chairman, said: "The decision [is] a direct result of tough market conditions, in particular the demanding European retail environment, strong pound volatility and low-cost competition from abroad."

Austin Reed has struggled to sell the machine-made operations since it hung a "for sale" sign over them a year ago. While some manufacturers had approached the firm, none had been willing to pay the minimum price the company was demanding.

Like other retailers, the company has been hit by the overwhelming trend for retailers to outsource their manufacturing to regions where labour is cheaper, notably eastern Europe.

In January, the company bought 175 Country Casual retail outlets plus 58 stores and concessions under the Austin Reed name for pounds 25.9m. Austin Reed shares rose 5p to 92.5p yesterday.