Scottish retailer folds with loss of 817 jobs

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The retail sector took another battering yesterday as the Glasgow-based group Bowie Castlebank called in the administrators and cut 817 jobs.

Another 847 staff are facing an uncertain future after Bowie, the Scottish retail group behind Klick Photopoint and Max Spielman photo processors and William Munro dry cleaners, appointed the accountant KPMG after trying unsuccessfully to reorganise its operations or refinance its debt as a going concern.

Bowie has been hurt hard as both the areas of its business have suffered from the recession and are also being overtaken by technology. With consumers increasingly using digital cameras that allow them to email pictures in electronic format, post them on websites or print them straight from the camera, less and less demand exists on the high street for photo-developing services.

Dry-cleaning is a similar story, as improved fabric and washing-machine technologies have made more and more clothes machine-washable.

Bowie Castlebank follows the pick-n-mix retail chain Woolworths and the furniture shop MFI into administration in recent weeks with retail sales falling compared to years past as retailers head into the crucial Christmas season. More than 30,000 jobs are at risk in the Woolworths and MFI situations.

The Glasgow-based Bowie Castlebank has 1,664 employees – before the redundancies are applied – and operates 314 photo-processing and dry cleaning shops throughout Britain, although the Munro dry-cleaning chain only operates in Scotland.

KPMG is nonetheless trying to sell some of the company's stores as going concerns as it tries to secure what cash it can for the business's creditors. Joint receiver Blair Nimmo, one of KPMG's restructuring partners, appealed for any interested parties to contact KPMG about buying stores. KPMG is also trying to help customers get their goods back.

"Customers who currently have photos with either Klick or Max Spielman for development or have garments with Munro's for cleaning, are advised to return to their local store as quickly as possible to retrieve these items," said Mr Nimmo in a statement. "All efforts will be made to return items to their owners where possible." He added: "It is with regret we have had to make substantial redundancies across Bowie Castlebank's operations and we are currently working with Government agencies to ensure the employees' issues are dealt with as quickly as possible. At the same time, we are marketing the business in an attempt to secure a sale of some of the group's stores or operations as a going concern."

KPMG said, however, it has no plans to close any of the company's retail outlets "at present."