US firm set to buy Clinton Cards

Clinton CardsThe remains of high street chain Clinton Cards are expected to be snapped up by an American greetings card firm later this week.

Reports have suggested that American Greetings, which has been one of Clinton's biggest suppliers, will take possession of up to 400 stores.
Zolfo Cooper, the administrator, has already announced the closure of around 350 stores, costing the jobs of nearly 3,000 full and part-time staff. It is aiming to sell the business by Friday but could do so before then.

Ohio-based American Greetings placed itself in pole position to buy the chain after it snapped up Clinton's £35 million bank debt, making it a preferential creditor and giving it a strong position in sale talks.

The US company's UK Greetings operation, which is based in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, has the brands Camden Graphics, Hanson White, Forget Me Not and Xpressions and supplies outlets including major supermarkets.

It is not expected to pay anything to the administrator for the stores, according to the Sunday Times. WH Smith and Card Factory - Clinton's biggest direct competitor with 596 shops - were also touted as potential bidders.

American Greetings, which has had a trading relationship with Clinton for 40 years, is likely to retain the business as a separate retailer.

Clinton Cards, which also trades as Birthdays, was the UK's largest specialist retailer of greetings cards and was founded by chairman Don Lewin in Epping, Essex, in 1968.

Its collapse came as another blow to the high street after recent high-profile casualties, including video games retailer Game Group, fashion chain Peacocks and outdoor specialist Blacks Leisure.

American Greetings dates back more than 100 years and generates annual revenues of 1.7 billion US dollars (£1.1 billion) from brands including Carlton Cards, Gibson and Papyrus.

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