Camera store Jessops has closed its shops, while entertainment retailer HMV is in administration. It's terrible news for employees, creditors and suppliers, but it may not be all bad news for customers with unused gift cards and vouchers.
HMV has continued trading, but administrator Deloitte has announced that stores will no longer accept gift cards and vouchers.
Many thousands of gift cards were sold in the run-up to Christmas, leaving a lot of people potentially out of pocket. However, whether you hold a Jessops or HMV gift card/voucher, there are ways to potentially get some or all of your money back.
If you paid by credit card
If the gift card or voucher was bought by you or for you using a credit card, under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act you can claim your money back. However, you must have spent at least £100, which probably rules out a lot of people.
These people can instead attempt to claim from the company that issued their card under the chargeback rule. You have 120 days from the date when you're aware there's a problem, which would be the dates when the chains went into administration – 9th January for Jessops and 14th January for HMV.
If the gift card was bought by you or for you using a debit card, you could also pursue a claim under the chargeback rule. You need to contact the bank or building society that issued your card. You have 120 days from the date when you're aware there's a problem, which would be the dates when the chains went into administration – 9th January for Jessops and 14th January for HMV.
Unfortunately, cash and cheque purchases don't cover the same levels of protection as those made by card. You can write to the administrators but you'll be added to a list of creditors and may not get any of your money back. If you have a Jessops gift card or voucher, there's information on how to submit a claim on the Jessops website.
If an HMV gift card was bought at Asda
Asda started selling HMV gift cards in November and has announced that it will switch the value of any HMV gift cards purchased at Asda onto an Asda gift card. However, you must be able to provide proof of purchase, which is either a receipt or a bank statement. You have until 30th January to make the switch.
Redeeming HMV gift cards/vouchers elsewhere
Some stores have offered to accept HMV gift vouchers and cards as payment. Online retailer musicgiftsuk.com is offering to refund gift cards and vouchers in the form of a discount of up to 50% when you buy from its website. So if you have a £10 gift voucher, you need to buy £20-worth of items to get your £10 refunded. Full details and terms and conditions are on the musicgiftsuk website.
Meanwhile, Banquet Records in Kingston-upon-Thames (one of my own favourite independent record shops) is offering 50% off any purchase to gift card and voucher holders. The store will retain the gift card or voucher until after the end of the promotional period, which lasts until 20th January, when you can claim it back from staff. So the best case scenario is you could end up saving some money now and getting your HMV money back later. Full terms and conditions are at the Banquet Records website.
Should I hold on to my HMV gift card/voucher?
Administrators Deloitte may decide to start accepting gift cards and vouchers again, as they did when Comet went into administration. However, this is by no means guaranteed. Bear in mind the 120-day deadline for making a chargeback claim for under £100.
What about Blockbuster?
DVD and game rental company Blockbuster has also entered administration (also appointing Deloitte). However, gift cards and trade-in credits are still being accepted for now. But you may want to spend them sooner rather than later.
High Street casualties
What to do if you have unused gift cards and vouchers
Administrators sounded the death knell for Woolworths in December 2008, leading to store closures that left 27,000 people out of work. Since its collapse former Woolworths stores have become a blight in many town centres and more than 100 of the large stores still lay vacant in January 2012.
Loyal customers didn't have go without the family favourite store for long however as it reappeared online as Woolworths.co.uk in 2009, after Shop Direct Home Shopping bought out the Woolworths name.
The greetings cards specialist became the latest highstreet casualty in May with 8,000 jobs on the line when it was forced it into administration. Its biggest supplier, American Greetings, then bought Clintons out of administration and put the retailer through a rebrand including a new logo and complete in-store revamps.
Its contemporary format includes new fixtures and fittings and easier to navigate stores, and will be rolled out to all 400 UK stores at the cost of £16million. Bosses aim to bring the brand back to profit within two years.
Poor sales in the run up to Christmas was the final nail in the coffin for several struggling chains, including lingerie retailer La Senza, which went bust in January 2012 with 146 shops and 2,600 staff. Kuwaiti retailer Alshaya bought part of the business, which saved 60 shops and 1,000 staff.
La Senza has been struggling in a similar way to other specialist shops such as Game and Mothercare, which have been hit by cut-price competition at supermarkets and have no alternative products to help shoulder losses.
Stricken retailer Blacks Leisure, which employed 3,600 staff across 98 Blacks stores and 208 Millets stores, went into administration in Janurary 2012 after failing to find an outright buyer.
Soon after its stores were bought by sportswear firm JD Sports in pre-pack deal - an insolvency procedure which sees a company being sold immediately after it has entered administration – which saw most of Blacks' £36 million of debt wiped out.
Fashion chain Bonmarche, which was part of the Peacock Group, was sold in January when the group collapsed due to unsustainable debts, resulting in 1,400 job losses and 160 store closures. Private equity firm Sun European Partners bought 230 stores, which continue to trade with 2,400 staff.
Peacocks collapsed under a £740 million net debt mountain in January 2012 in the biggest retail failure since Woolworths. Despite being sold out of administration to Edinburgh Woollen Mill in a deal that saved 380 stores and 6,000 jobs, administrators from KPMG were forced to close 224 stores with immediate effect. This lead to 3,350 redundancies from stores and Peacocks head office in Cardiff.
The high street name continues trading as bosses work to stabilise the situation, yet a further blow was dealt this month with news that the firm's pension fund is in £15.8 million shortfall as a result of the collapse.
Game buckled under its £85m debt pile in March 2012 and was placed into administration after being unable to pay a £21m rent bill. Administrator PwC immediately closed 277 shops, with the loss of 2,000 jobs. Soon after, investment firm, OpCapita bought 333 Game stores, saving more than 3,000 jobs.
Game's demise followed a string of profit warnings and the failure of nervous suppliers, including leading names Electronic Arts and Nintendo, to go on providing the latest games, further damaging poor sales.