Wigan card firm fears

Birthdays at Robin Retail Park
Birthdays at Robin Retail Park

WIGAN retail staff employed by a greetings cards giant are reeling today after a threat to jobs.

They face a nervous wait after Clinton’s/Birthdays were told by their biggest supplier they intended to push the British retail chain into administration.

The chain has stores throughout Wigan, including at Robin Park, Wigan town centre and The Grand Arcade and more than two dozen employees across the borough.

The “aggressive” move, by American Greetings, is said by City experts to have wrong-footed Clinton chief executive Darcy Willson-Rymer, who had hoped to work closely with the New York-listed group as part of a turnaround of the loss-making retailer.

But AG took action on Tuesday night, buying up Clinton’s £35m debts from Barclays and taxpayer-backed Royal Bank of Scotland and then calling in the loans.

The “loan to own” method is a popular tactic used by some businessmen in the United States to take over companies. And AG have now said they will push the company into administration.

Clinton Cards, the country’s biggest cards retailer, operates 628 Clinton and 139 Birthdays stores across Britain and has requested that its shares be suspended on the London Stock Exchange.

Employees have been told to turn up for work and it is thought the administrators will continue to run the stores as normal while seeking a buyer. However it is now feared that a substantial number of the shops will ultimately close.

Grand Arcade manager John Sanson said: “They have a number of successful units in Wigan but this isn’t a Wigan problem, it’s a national problem for them, but sadly Wigan will suffer because of it.

“They are trading, with business as normal, and that will be the case until we hear otherwise, which I suppose will be in a few days time.”