ADMINISTRATORS have been called in to Houstons Fashions.
The company has been trading for around 62 years and at this stage it’s hoped the majority of its stores can continue to trade - although the fate of the Lurgan store is unclear.
It also has stores in Banbridge, Armagh, Enniskillen and Ballymena, along with two others in the Republic.
It’s understood the company’s directors called in the administrators on Wednesday and 10 jobs look set to go.
PricewaterhouseCoopers said the move was a result of “reduced retail demand and pressures in the commercial and residential property sector have resulted in deterioration in the company’s financial performance”.
“Following discussions with the company’s lender and key stakeholders, we have agreed a strategy that will permit most of the stores to continue trading.
“This will safeguard the majority of the company’s jobs and minimise disruption to suppliers and concession operators.
“By working closely with the Administrators and lenders during this group restructuring, we are pleased that the overwhelming majority of the 250 jobs will be saved.”
Upper Bann Ulster Unionist MLA Jo-Anne Dobson expressed her concerns.
She said: “Houston’s has been an integral part of my constituency for many years. Its stores in Banbridge and Lurgan have provided a high level of service and quality goods to local people for generations as well as being a key local employer.
“Whilst I am pleased that the appointed administrator and Houston’s management have agreed a strategy that will allow most of their stores to continue to trade, it is disappointing that job losses have been unavoidable.
“This will be an especially difficult time for employees and their families and I hope that the company can overcome its present difficulties and continue to play a major role in our local towns for years to come.
“Locally owned and managed companies such as Houston’s form a major part of the fabric of rural towns across Northern Ireland and support from local communities is all the more important in the present difficult economic climate. It is important that our rural towns retain their unique identities.”
The DUP’s Councillor Carla Lockhart expressed her concern at the job losses and added “This is a very respected, long standing company and I notice the administrators are saying the majority of jobs could be saved.
“The retail sector has been badly hit in recent times with the very difficult economic conditions, significant government cuts to the public purse coupled with runaway fuel and energy costs have resulted in significantly reduced disposable income which is having a very serious impact on the retail sector.
“In his recent budget Chancellor George Osborne set aside money for the super rich and helped to finance it by hitting pensioners and people on lower incomes. It would have been much better if this had been allocated differently to help more people, with the effect it would have left people with more net income to spend on the high street.”
For more on this story see Thursday’s ‘MAIL’.