Past Times closes half its stores

Past Times store frontRetro-themed gift retailer Past Times has closed nearly half of its stores, triggering hundreds of job losses.

The private equity-owned group shut 47 of its 98 stores on Tuesday night as it battles for survival following dire trading. It is understood the move led to some 400 redundancies - nearly half of its 1,000-strong UK workforce.
The Witney, Oxfordshire-based group also won a 10-day extension to a notice to appoint administrators to give it more time to carry out discussions with a number of parties interested in buying the business.

It had previously said on December 23 that it planned to appoint administrators after 10 working days, but the deadline expired on Tuesday.

The group is understood to have suffered over Christmas despite heavy discounting and its range of Downton Abbey-themed memorabilia.

The business has not revealed the locations of the closed stores.

It is thought the group may yet be rescued in a controversial pre-pack deal that allows companies to buy its best assets out of administration but not have to take on its debt.

Other retailers to have been saved in such a deal in recent days include lingerie firm La Senza, outdoor specialist Blacks Leisure and fashion retailer D2 Jeans.

Past Times sells a wide range of toys and gifts, including teddy bears, mugs and puzzles. It is thought to have struggled over Christmas, a period that is particularly important for its business because it relies on shoppers buying its goods as gifts.

The group is owned by private equity firm Epic, which itself bought the chain out of administration in 2005.
© 2012 Press Association
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