COLLAPSED retail chain Peacocks looks closer to finding new owners today.
Administrators reported huge interest in the business.
More than 100 conversations were held with potential buyers for all or part of the clothing retailer in the 48 hours after it collapsed, according to KPMG.
Chris Laverty, joint administrator and restructuring partner at KPMG, said: “We have received huge interest from potential acquirers of Peacocks following our appointment last week.”
Peacocks, which has 563 stores and 48 concessions, and parent company the Peacock Group fell into administration under a mountain of debt earlier this month.
The collapse – billed as the biggest retail failure since Woolworths – has placed 9,600 jobs in jeopardy.
Huddersfield-based fashion chain Bon Marché, which was part of the Peacock Group, was sold earlier this week in a deal that will lead to 1,400 job losses and 160 store closures.
Private equity firm Sun European Partners bought 230 stores and Bon Marché’s headquarters and distribution centre at Grange Moor. It will continue to employ 2,400 staff.
Bon Marché has a store at New Street in Huddersfield and one in Dewsbury town centre. The new owners have yet to announce which stores will close.
Elsewhere, it was reported that retailers including Poundland and Tesco are eyeing up a number of Peacocks stores in the event that a buyer for all or part of the struggling chain is not found.
Locally, Peacocks has a store at the Piazza Centre in Huddersfield, another in Brighouse and one in Dewsbury.
KPMG has already announced 249 redundancies from the Peacocks head office in Cardiff.
Peacocks reported strong trading over the Christmas period, with like-for-like sales up by 17%, helped by a collaboration with singer-turned-fashion designer Pearl Lowe.
But the company, owned by hedge funds Och-Ziff and Perry Capital, suffered as its profit margins came under pressure from the frenzy of discounts on the high street being offered by retailers desperate to drum up trade.
The retailer has also racked up £750m of borrowings.
Mr Laverty said: “Whilst the capital structure was not sustainable, the underlying business has a loyal customer base evidenced by strong sales levels in store since our appointment.”
The administrators have set a deadline of Monday next week for potential bids to be submitted.
Even if Peacocks is sold, there are fears that some 200 stores could still be closed. Landlords are understood to be negotiating with other retailers that might take the shops.
Peacocks traces its roots to 1884 when Albert Frank Peacock founded Peacock’s Penny Bazaar in Warrington.
His son Harold moved the business to Cardiff in the 1940s. The business expanded in the 1990s and floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1999 before buying Bon Marché, in 2002.
The company delisted from the Stock Exchange to become a privately-owned business again in 2006 and broke the 500 stores mark in 2008.