Clinton Cards, the greetings card retailer, has put its ailing Birthdays chain up for sale, as the group's new chief executive seeks to turn around its performance.
The owner of the Clintons chain has hired advisers at the accountancy firm Ernst & Young (EY) to sell the 141-store Birthdays operation. The smaller chain, which sells discount cards, made a loss of £8.6m in 2010-11.
The card group, which operates 630 Clintons shops, has been shrinking the Birthdays chain over recent years. Clinton's bought back 196 Birthdays stores out of administration in 2009 and liquidated the chain in the Republic of Ireland last year.
The hiring of advisers is the most significant move yet by Darcy Willson-Rymer, the chief executive of Clinton's. He began his strategic review after joining Clinton's in October from the coffee chain Starbucks, where he was UK managing director.
EY, which declined to comment, is expected to send out an information memorandum on Birthdays over the coming days.
Like-for-like at Birthdays fell by 2.7 per cent over the 5 weeks to 1 January. While the Clintons chain grew underlying sales by 0.8 per cent over the same festive period, the group made a loss of £10.66m for the year to 31 July.
A spokesperson for Clinton's said the strategic review is set to be concluded in late April.
He added: "This is critical for the successful turnaround of the business and by necessity looks at every part of the group, including both Clintons and Birthdays." Shares in Clinton's closed yesterday at 11.25p but had traded at 75p in May 2007.
Elsewhere, the fashion retailer Fenn Wright Manson, which has 17 standalone stores and 62 concessions, appointed Zolfo Cooper as administrator yesterday. Separately, the 21-store jewellery chain Azendi is poised to hire Deloitte as administrator.