3,000 to lose jobs as Focus administrator pulls the plug

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The Independent Online

Up to 3,000 jobs at Focus DIY are set to be lost after administrators failed to find a buyer for the troubled home improvement chain.

The group went into administration earlier this month after buckling under the pressure of difficult trading conditions. Although a number of jobs have been saved through deals with rivals, many more across the remaining 123 stores are now in the firing line.

A number of household names, including Woolworths and the wine chain Oddbins, have failed in the wake of the financial crisis and falling consumer demand in 2008. A recovery in spending last year proved short lived, with consumer confidence tracking lower in recent months.

Joint administrators from the accountancy firm Ernst & Young said they had appointed the retail consultants Gordon Brothers to advise on the sale of the stock at the remaining stores "with a view to closing down the retail chain", which was bought by the US private firm Cerberus for £1 in 2007.

"The administrators have already been successful in finding buyers for 55 stores in three separate deals, and hope to secure the sale of further stores with the transfer of associated employees. However, it has not been possible to find a buyer for the Focus DIY group as a whole," they said, adding that a sweeping closing down sale will begin this weekend.

Simon Allport, one of joint administrators appointed to Focus, said that while the sale of the 55 stores to rivals B&Q, Wickes and B&M had saved up to 900 jobs, finding a buyer for the group had not proved possible against the tough retail backdrop. "UK retailers are facing one of the most challenging retail environments in recent times and the DIY sector has become highly competitive, with only the strongest players being able to survive," he explained.

The administrators said they would continue to seek sales of furthers stores, but conceded that the planned stock liquidation was "likely to result in number of Focus stores closing with remaining employees going though a redundancy process".

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