Clark cuts 170 jobs in Somerset closure

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The Independent Online
C&J CLARK International, which owns the Clarks and K Shoe brands, yesterday announced the closure of its children's shoes factory in Street, Somerset, with the loss of 170 jobs.

News of the redundancies came as Clark, Britain's leading shoemaker and one of the largest privately owned companies, was considering a takeover approach.

The closure marks the end of shoemaking in Street after 167 years. But Clark will retain about 1,000 head office and marketing staff in the town.

The job losses have been prompted by grim trading conditions, which the company said had led to a 10 per cent manufacturing overcapacity. It said it could no longer continue with short-time capacity, which has been in operation for the past year.

The site employs 250 people, making 1 million pairs of girls' shoes a year. The operations will be transferred to two other children's footwear factories at Shepton Mallet and Radstock, both in the West Country.

The transfer will create 80 additional jobs at the two sites and compulsory redundancies could be further reduced through early retirement and voluntary lay-offs.

The company has already reduced its workforce by 800 this year to about 20,000.

The group's 11-member board is considering a bid approach - believed to be for pounds 175m - funded by Electra, the development capital firm. The suitors are thought to be Dennis Stevenson, chairman of Tate Gallery, and Colin Fisher. Both men have long been associated with the company and run SRU, a management consultancy.

Clark, which is 70 per cent owned by 500 family members, with the balance held by institutions and staff, has welcomed the approach as 'constructive and friendly'. It is being advised by Cazenove, the stockbroker, and Schroders, the merchant bank.

The approach has come to light as dissident shareholders attempt to unseat Walter Dickson, chairman, and Jim Power, a non-executive director, from the board. The rebels have called a shareholders' meeting later this month and want to install Hugh Pym, the television journalist and a family member, as the new chief.

The group made operating profits of pounds 28m on pounds 594m turnover in the year to 31 January. Net assets were 282p a share.