TJ Hughes forced to launch fire sale of stock

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The Independent Online

The turmoil on the high street was brought into sharp relief yesterday after the administrators of the Liverpool-based TJ Hughes announced a fire sale to run down stock levels at the discount department store chain.

Alongside the sale, Tom Jack and Simon Allport, the joint administrators from Ernst & Young, said they were still trying to find a buyer for the beleaguered firm, which employs more than 4,000 people across the UK.

"We are already in discussions with over 30 interested parties and we are encouraged by the strong level of interest in the business and its portfolio of 57 stores," Mr Jack said.

"However, there are significant stock levels and we therefore must ensure we are also pursuing a strategy to trade this stock through the business, in case we cannot find buyers for all of the company's stores and employees. Promotional activity will therefore commence immediately in all TJ Hughes stores."

The move follows a spate of retail closures or restructurings over the last couple of months, with trouble at well-known names such as Focus DIY and Homeform, the owner of Moben Kitchens and Dolphin Bathrooms.

Although some retailers have collapsed, others, including Thorntons and the carpet retailer Carpetright, are closing stores as the sector battles against a backdrop of rising inflation, declining consumer confidence and sluggish economic growth.

TJ Hughes was bought in March by the private equity group Endless, in partnership with the retail entrepreneur Anthony Solomon. But the recent deterioration in the retail environment ultimately led to the discount chain entering administration at the end of last month. It lost more than £10m last year.

Yesterday, the Ernst & Young administrators said the fire sale would commence with advice and assistance from retail consultants GA Europe, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Great American Group.

TJ Hughes was founded in Liverpool in 1912 by Thomas Hughes.