Facia shops struggle on

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The Independent Online
Some of Britain's best known high street names will open for business as usual today even though their parent company collapsed into receivership over the weekend.

Receivers were appointed to the Salisbury's luggage stores, Oakland menswear, Contessa lingerie, Torq jewellers and the Red or Dead design group after bankers withdrew their support from the parent company, Facia.

It collapsed with debts of pounds 30m on Saturday and accounts show the group had made a loss of pounds 9m in the last 16 weeks.

Yesterday, Facia's chairman, Stephen Hinchliffe, was in talks with potential financial backers about a possible bid to buy the company back from receivership. The group's receivers KPMG, said it had not yet received any offer from Mr Hinchliffe. However, there have been several expressions of interest in buying some of the stores and one inquiry about the whole group.

Around 500 shops and 6,000 jobs are involved. KPMG say they hope to avoid closing any stores. There are also no immediate plans for jobs losses. KPMG's Ian Thompson said: "The attitude of staff has been exemplary. We are still reviewing the position but I will make sure that if there are any job losses they will be kept to a minimum."

Facia also owns a string of high street shoe shops including Freeman Hardy Willis, Saxone, Curtess and Manfield. These are not included in the receivership. However there is a court hearing at noon today that will decide whether those chains should be placed in administration. The move was triggered by Sears, the Selfridges retail group, which sold the footwear stores to Facia.

Facia was built up rapidly by Mr Hinchliffe, a colourful Sheffield entrepreneur who also owns a stake in Sheffield United football club. He started Facia in 1994 when he bought the loss making Salisbury's chain. In a frenzy of acquisition activity he then acquired a string of other names that had fallen on hard times. His plan was to save money on central costs by putting the stores in one group.

The funding of the group was always a mystery. Many retail experts struggled to see how Mr Hinchliffe could make such a disparate group of faded brand names work in such an intensely competitive retail environment

Mr Hinchliffe is also facing proceedings by the DTI which could see him disqualified from acting as a director for up to 15 years. He is vigorously defending the proceedings.

Hinchliffe move, page 16