Two city card stores saved from closure by buyout
TWO of Plymouth's Clinton Cards branches have been saved from closure after they were part of a buyout by a US firm – but the future of two others is uncertain.
The stores in Drake Circus mall and upper New George Street were among 397 branches sold out of administration to Ohio-based American Greetings Corporation.
The deal is said to save 4,500 jobs nationally, but staff in Plymouth still must wait and see what the new owners plan to do with them.
And at one city store a worker said staff were in the dark about the transfer and added: "We have not been told anything."
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Meanwhile, a question mark still hangs over the Clinton Cards branch at Plymstock Broadway, and the Birthdays store, part of the same group, in upper Cornwall Street.
Neither of these were included in the sale but administrators Zolfo Cooper said it was still hoped a buyer could be found and closure averted.
At the Plymstock outlet a worker declined to comment.
The huge Clinton Cards group collapsed into administration last month, blaming "cash flow problems due to extremely challenging trading conditions".
Zolfo Cooper then announced the planned closure of about 350 stores, costing the jobs of nearly 3,000 full-time and part-time staff, including the outlets in Plymstock and Cornwall Street, unless a buyer can yet be found.
It was another blow to the high street after recent high-profile casualties including Game, Hawkin's Bazaar, Past Times and Barratts Shoes, all of which lost stores in Plymouth city centre.
Also, a Birthdays branch in lower New George Street closed prior to the administration, in October last year.
American Greetings, which has been one of Clinton's biggest suppliers, placed itself in pole position to buy the chain after it snapped up Clinton's £35million bank debt, making it a preferential creditor.
The US company's UK Greetings operation, based in Yorkshire, has the brands Camden Graphics, Hanson White, Forget Me Not and Xpressions and supplies outlets including major supermarkets.
Its chief executive, Zev Weiss, said: "We are pleased to welcome these stores, the Clinton Cards brand, and the approximately 4,500 employees as members of the American Greetings family.
"We believe that properly managed, and with the appropriate capital structure, Clinton Cards can be both an important and profitable retailer in the speciality channel of distribution over the long term."
Zolfo Cooper said the administration was due to an "unrealistic and financially unsustainable store footprint".
Peter Saville, a partner at Zolfo Cooper, said there was a strong underlying business, with the company paying the price for "excessively ambitious" expansion plans and the impact of intense competition.
He said: "The significant number of credible expressions of interest we received for the business, from both trade and financial buyers alike, is testament to this fact."