'Huge interest' in Peacocks business

 

Collapsed retailer Peacocks is moving in on new ownership after administrators were swamped with interest in all or part of the business.

More than 100 conversations were held with potential buyers for the clothing retailer in the 48 hours after it collapsed, KPMG said.

Chris Laverty, joint administrator and restructuring partner at KPMG, said: "We have received huge interest from potential acquirers of Peacocks, following our appointment last week."

Peacocks, which has 563 stores and 48 concessions, and parent company the Peacock Group collapsed into administration under its debt mountain earlier this month in the biggest retail failure since Woolworths, placing 9,600 jobs in jeopardy.

Fashion chain Bonmarche, which was part of the Peacock Group, was sold earlier this week in a deal that will lead to 1,400 job losses and 160 store closures. Private equity firm Sun European Partners bought 230 stores and will continue to employ 2,400 staff.

Elsewhere, it was reported that retailers including Poundland and Tesco were eyeing up parts of the store portfolio in the event a buyer for all or part of the struggling chain is not found.

KPMG has already announced 249 redundancies from Peacocks head office in Cardiff.

Peacocks reported strong trading over the Christmas period, with like-for-like sales up 17%, helped by a collaboration with singer-turned-fashion designer Pearl Lowe.

But the company, owned by hedge funds Och-Ziff and Perry Capital, has suffered as its profit margins came under pressure from the frenzy of discounts on the high street being offered by retailers desperate to drum up trade. The retailer also racked up £750 million of borrowings.

Mr Laverty said: "Whilst the capital structure was not sustainable, the underlying business has a loyal customer base evidenced by strong sales levels in store since our appointment."

The administrators have set a deadline of Monday for potential bids to be submitted.

But the Financial Times said if a buyer is not found, some 200 stores could still be closed. Landlords are understood to be negotiating with other retailers that might take the shops, including Poundland, Brighthouse and Tesco.

Peacocks can trace its history back to Warrington, in Cheshire, in 1884 when Albert Frank Peacock founded Peacock's Penny Bazaar. In 1940, his son Harold moved the business to its current base in Cardiff.

The business developed and expanded in the 1990s, floating on the London Stock Exchange in 1999. The Peacock Group acquired low-cost retailer Bonmarche in 2002.

The company delisted from the Stock Exchange to become a privately-owned business once again in 2006 and broke the 500 stores mark in 2008.

PA

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