Johnson closing 100 shops as dry cleaning feels the pinch

The recession has found its next victim: dry cleaning. Johnson Service Group, the owner of Prince Charles's dry cleaner, Jeeves of Belgravia, and the high street chain Johnsons, yesterday set out plans to close 100 loss-making branches from its 460-strong portfolio.

The group said it did not know whether high unemployment meaning fewer people wearing suits, cash-strapped customers eking out the weeks between a trip to the cleaners or the soaring popularity of machine-wash suits was to blame.

However, the shops earmarked for closure saw their sales fall 2.7 per cent in the first half of the year. That was after revenues dropped 4.3 per cent last year. Johnson admitted its dry cleaning division will miss expectations for the first half.

Paul Ogle, the managing director of its dry cleaning division, will leave the company's board because it is merging its dry cleaning and textile rental business, the biggest part of Johnson's group, to save on branding costs. The restructuring will tot up to £23.9m.

John Talbot, the executive chairman, said: "The restructuring is supported by strong trading and cash generation from the textile rental and facilities management businesses. We have confidence that our continuing dry cleaning estate will not only be able to withstand the current retail environment but make a telling contribution to future performance."

The shares were flat at 27.25p.

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