Struggling Ratners to close 54 more shops

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The Independent Online
JAMES McADAM, chairman of Ratners, has wielded the axe on 54 more jewellery shops in an attempt to drag the debt-laden retailer into the black.

The company, which announced a pounds 40m loss yesterday, is also changing its name to Signet, completing a break with Gerald Ratner, the former chief executive who resigned last November.

The company said that, despite a rise in borrowings from pounds 223m to pounds 288m, it had secured new two-year banking facilities to replace lines that ran out last month. Mr McAdam refused to say whether the continued support of bankers meant a widely rumoured rights issue was now less likely.

The planned closures, costing pounds 18m, are in addition to a three-year programme, announced last year, which envisaged shutting 182 shops at the cost of up to 1,000 jobs.

The loss in the year to January followed a pounds 122m deficit last year. Sales were 18 per cent lower at pounds 929m, reflecting the decision to end heavy price discounting.

Worst hit was the downmarket Ratners chain, where sales, down 30 per cent, continued to suffer from Gerald Ratner's widely publicised boast that one of its products was 'total crap'.

Mr McAdam said that he was conducting a reassessment of the underperforming Ratners shops. A new format is planned for a small number of test stores later this year.

In the US, where the company operates as Kays and Sterling, consumer spending improved in the final quarter. A reversal of last year's pounds 2m loss into a pounds 20m profit was not enough, however, to make up for a pounds 28m loss from the UK operations.

There was no dividend on either the preference or ordinary shares, which added 3p to 35.5p.

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