1,100 jobs at risk as another high street staple set to disappear

Another major retailer is to disappear from UK high streets, as struggling office stationery brand Staples has been offloaded by its American owner.

Friday, 18th November 2016, 11:42 am
Updated Friday, 18th November 2016, 12:22 pm

The UK arm of US firm Staples – which employs around 1,100 staff across 106 stores in Britain – has been bought by restructuring specialist Hilco, which also owns HMV, for a “nominal sum”.

Hilco said it would now phase out the Staples brand in the UK over the coming months. Plans for the store estate and the impact on staff were not disclosed.

Staples’ European operations are also under threat. Officials in the US put the European business under review in May, and the outcome of this review has not yet been concluded.

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According to its most recent accounts, Staples’ UK retail operations reported pre-tax losses of £5m for the year to the end of January 2015, and this followed losses of £7.1m a year earlier. The firm has debts of £60m.

But there was better news for the wider high street yesterday. Figures showed UK retail sales rose at their strongest yearly rate in more than a decade in October, as shoppers bought winter clothes and supermarkets reported a successful Halloween. Sales were 7.4 per cent higher than the same month last year, the fastest year-on-year growth since April 2002, Office for National Statistics figures showed.

Meanwhile, online sales were at their strongest for five years, proving consumers remained eager to shop despite uncertainty over the potential fallout from Brexit.

Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist for IHS Global Insight, said: “This was a cracking performance, which was way above all expectations.”

He added: “Even allowing for some helpful special factors, October’s surge in retail sales indicates that consumers were still prepared to spend at the start of the fourth quarter, thereby buoying hopes that GDP growth can continue to hold up well.”

Figures earlier this week also showed that average store prices, including petrol stations, fell by 0.7 per cent in October compared with a year ago. However, this was the smallest annual decrease since July 2014. Analysts expect prices to rise next year, as retailers begin to pass on the costs of the weaker pound.

Inflation is currently running at 0.9 per cent and is forecast to hit 2.1 per cent next year, according to Bank of England statistics.