Claremont axes 10% of staff on a day of redundancies

More than 800 redundancies were announced yesterday as three companies unveiled big shake-ups. Marks & Spencer supplier Claremont Garments is cutting more than 500 jobs - equivalent to almost 10 per cent of its workforce - after a poor year during which sales were affected by the hot summer and weak consumer confidence.

The radiator-maker Barlo is axing 180 jobs after difficult trading conditions in the UK and Continental Europe affected profits.

Elsewhere, the chemicals company Albright & Wilson has announced 80 redundancies. The jobs will go in the group's Birmingham head office and speciality chemicals business, where profits have fallen. The company is making a provision of pounds 5m to cover the cost of the redundancies.

The redundancies come just two days after Manpower, the employment agency, warned that the outlook for jobs growth in the next three months was the worst for more than three years. The agency also predicted that the problems in the jobs market and an increase in the spread of temporary and part- time work would unsettle the Government's hopes of a consumer-led revival in the economy later this year.

Claremont Garments, which supplies lingerie and outerwear to M&S, is undertaking "a fundamental review of its operations" after announcing a 10 per cent fall in profits to pounds 14.5m yesterday. The slump was due to a fall in sales in the second half of the year, when trading was affected first by the hot summer and then the mild autumn. A pick-up in sales in November and December failed to make up the lost ground. The company's margins were affected as it cut prices in an effort to stimulate sales.

Claremont, which supplies more than 90 per cent of its garments to M&S and keeps most of its manufacturing in Britain, is now considering the future of some of its 30 sites, with some closures a possibility. The chairman, Peter Wiegand, said: "We have to concentrate on our most efficient centres." The restructuring will cost pounds 6m, which will be charged against this year's profits.

The company added that while it remained committed to UK manufacturing, it would shortly sign a joint venture to take a 55 per cent stake in a Moroccan company that makes childrens' wear. The company already manufactures in Romania, China and Lithuania but says it expects overseas production to account for no more than 15 per cent of sales.

Claremont's order book for this year is up on 1995, with ladies' sports, dresses and lingerie particularly strong. However, margin pressures are continuing. The shares, which stood at more than 330p last year, fell 1p to 242p.