Ethel Austin buy-out saves 1,000 jobs

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The Independent Online

More than 1,000 jobs at embattled retail chain Ethel Austin were safe today after the firm's previous owner bought it out of administration for a second time.

Elaine McPherson, who rescued the company from collapse two years ago, snapped up 90 of the chain's remaining stores through her new firm Life & Style Retail Limited.

The move comes after administrators MCR announced 700 jobs cuts at Ethel Austin and Au Naturale earlier this month.

Joint administrator Geoff Bouchier said: "This is positive news for the 1,183 employees who were facing an uncertain future.

"We are pleased with the result and believe this is a suitable outcome, especially considering the tough market and the lasting financial pressures from the recession."

MCR today said 41 outlets that are already destined for closure in the next two weeks are not part of the deal with Ms McPherson, which was completed yesterday.

The Au Naturale business is unaffected by the announcement, although administrators said they expect to conclude a sale shortly.

Ms McPherson, the previous chief executive and joint-owner of MK One, pledged to return Ethel Austin to its "former glory" after snapping up the group in May 2008.

But the 76-year-old firm has come under pressure from rival budget chains such as Primark and Matalan, while the financial crisis affected its financing plans.

The business, which has its head office in Knowsley, Merseyside, was founded by Ethel Austin and her husband George Austin in their Liverpool council house in 1934.