Shoes chain Barratts sheds 1,600 workers

The wave of redundancies sweeping Britain's stricken high streets gathered pace yesterday as 1,600 staff were laid off at the shoe shop chain Barratts and the toy retailer Hawkin's Bazaar collapsed, with the potential loss of 380 jobs.

Administrators were called into Barratts Priceless before Christmas amid a sales slump that has hit many big chains. Attempts to find a buyer for its concessions, mainly in Dorothy Perkins and Outfit stores, have failed, and they will be closed. The administrator, Deloitte, is still trying to find buyers for the 149 standalone shops still trading.

Fears for 380 workers at Hawkin's Bazaar and the mail order group Letterbox rose as the administrator Zolfo Cooper was called into their parent company, Tobar. Hawkin's has 65 permanent stores and 55 temporary Christmas shops. The "pop-up" stores, which employ a further 400 casual workers, will be closed in coming days as planned. Zolfo Cooper said: "The directors worked very hard to turn the business around but concluded that administration is the best route forward."

Hawkin's Bazaar was set up in 1973 but suffered what Zolfo described as "exceptionally challenging trading conditions". It takes its place in the growing line of recent retail failures including D2 jeans, which called in administrators this week. The lingerie firm La Senza and gift shop chain Past Times are expected to follow.

Administration does not necessarily result in a chain disappearing. The process is often used as a quick, cheap way to close stores, lay off staff and cut debts to allow a business to continue trading from a smaller base.

Blacks Leisure, owner of Milletts outdoor goods, is among the biggest recent casualties, but could be saved in the new year after four bidders expressed an interest in buying parts of the business.

While shareholders will be wiped out in any sale, many of the 3,500 employees could keep their jobs.

The discount fashion chain Peacocks is trying to renegotiate a £240m debt lent by banks including Lloyds.

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