Waterford collapse threatens thousands of jobs

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The Independent Online

The collapse of historic crystal and china maker Waterford Wedgwood today put 2,700 jobs at risk in the UK and Ireland on another day of gloom for retailers across the high street.

The latest failure came as the axe fell on 850 staff at failed childrenswear chain Adams after administrators announced the closure of 111 stores.

Manchester-based perfume retailer Passion for Perfume also joined the list of high street casualties in administration after cutting 194 jobs.

And former high street giant Woolworths will shut its doors for the final time tomorrow with the closure of its remaining 200 stores in a collapse which is set to leave 27,000 staff out of work.

Administrators Deloitte are hunting for a buyer for Waterford Wedgwood, best known for Wedgwood pottery, Royal Doulton and Waterford crystal.

Waterford - which can trace its origins back 250 years - collapsed after talks over a possible sale to a US private equity firm failed to bear fruit and its lenders' patience ran out.

The company will continue to trade as a going concern and chief executive David Sculley is "optimistic" a buyer can be found but question marks now hang over the future of UK and Irish staff.

The UK business employs around 1,900 retailing and manufacturing staff, including 600 at its manufacturing base in Barlaston, Stoke-on-Trent. The Irish arm has around 800 staff based in Waterford.

The firm had struggled for years despite attempts to restructure the business, new product launches and more modern lines designed by stars such as chef Gordon Ramsay and designer Sir Terence Conran.

Non-executive chairman Sir Anthony O'Reilly, who also controls media firm Independent News & Media, owner of The Independent, added: "We are consoled only by the fact that everything that could have been done, by management and by the board, to preserve the group, was done."

Adams administrator PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) - appointed on New Year's Eve - said today's job losses were "inevitable" as stores were closed at locations including Glasgow, Leeds, Blackpool, Coventry, Bolton and Wigan.

The remaining 160 Adams stores will stay open while efforts are made to secure a sale. Adams continues to employ 2,350 staff, and PwC said it was "hopeful" of being able to sell some parts of the business.

Adams was founded in Birmingham in 1933 by Amy Adams and celebrated its 75th anniversary last year.

The group's collapse marks the latest in a recent string of company failures, following groups such as Woolworths, music and entertainment chain Zavvi, and MFI into administration.

Deloitte said Passion for Perfume made 185 store staff and nine in the head office redundant on New Year's Eve.

The firm traded online and from 45 stores across the UK at locations including Aberdeen, Plymouth, Blackpool and Wigan.

The chain was owned by Manchester-based property developer and entrepreneurs Brendan Flood, Nigel Tobias and James Michael Riddell, who launched the business in 2004, but attempts to find a buyer failed as trading conditions worsened.

There was glimmer of cheer elsewhere on the high street however after department store business John Lewis said it was encouraged by its festive performance.

The group saw total sales rose 2.4% in the five weeks to January 3, although the figure was flat on a year earlier when excluding new store openings and VAT changes.

John Lewis said fashion sales, including beauty, were 4% higher, while electricals and home technology improved by 10%.

Sales for the home department were impacted by the property downturn, but John Lewis said the division saw stronger trade last week as bargain-hunters came out in force.