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100 jobs go at Focus Crewe Head Office

MORE than 100 people have been made redundant at the head office of troubled retailer Focus.

The Crewe-based DIY chain collapsed into administration earlier this month, putting about 1,000 North Staffordshire and South Cheshire jobs at risk. Now administrators Ernst & Young have confirmed that 109 employees at the retailer's Westmere Drive headquarters have been axed, leaving a workforce of 185.

A spokesman for Ernst & Young could make no guarantees about the prospects for the remaining staff. Asked if any more redundancies were planned, he said: "It is tooearly in the process to say.

"One hundred and nine employees were made redundant on May 5. Employees were selected for redundancy on the basis of ensuring that the business retained key employees to ensure a smooth trading period whilst the company is in administration.

"In a number of cases redundancies were made as roles were eliminated."

Some head office workers are angry, saying that there was no consultation before they were told their jobs were gone. It is understood they are considering launching legal action claiming unfair dismissal and asking for a protective award, an enhanced severance package available to people who lose their jobs without proper consultation.

The Ernst & Young spokesman added: "At this time we have not received any claims so cannot comment on any claims which may be raised." Before administrators were called in, Focus ran 178 stores across the country, including outlets in Fenton, Tunstall, Trent Vale, Leek, Congleton, Nantwich and Uttoxeter.

The owners of DIY rival B&Q have already bought 31 of the outlets for a total of £23 million, and builders' merchant Travis Perkins, which owns the Wickes chain, has bought 13 for £8.4 million.

It is not known which locations are included in these deals, and all 178 outlets are trading as normal. Wickes said it would take on all the 345 staff at the sites it was acquiring.

Travis Perkins chief executive Geoff Cooper said: "The acquisition of these 13 stores, cherry-picked from over 100 potential locations, further expands ourWickes business and will help us to continue our gains in like-for-like and total market share."

Focus fell into administration after it was hit by low consumer confidence and a weak housing market, which affected sales and profit margins. The chain has struggled in recent years against tough competition from rivals – including B&Q and Wickes.

Simon Allport, an administrator at Ernst & Young, said he was still in discussions with a number of parties to sell the remaining 134 stores.

He added that the shops have been trading at record levels after offering discounts across its ranges.

Source : David Johnson - This is Staffordshire

19 May 2011
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