1,000 jobs saved in Officers Club deal

MORE than 1,000 staff from a stricken North East-based menswear chain have had their jobs secured following a buy-out dramatically announced last night.

MORE than 1,000 staff from a stricken North East-based menswear chain have had their jobs secured following a buy-out dramatically announced last night.

A company backed by David Charlton, chief executive of Cramlington-based The Officers Club, said it was buying 118 of the 150 stores owned by the company, which went into administration yesterday.

Ian Green, Steve Ellis and Nick Reed of auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers were appointed as joint administrators of The Officers Club Limited and last night issued the following statement: “Immediately following their appointment, they (the administrators) were pleased to announce a sale of a significant proportion of the business and assets of the companies to TimeC 1215 Limited.

“The Officers Club is a high street menswear retailer with 150 stores throughout the United Kingdom including those operating under the Petroleum brand, with head offices in Cramlington, Northumberland. Like many retail clothing chains The Officers Club has been facing stiff competition, making trading conditions even more difficult.

“TimeC 1215 Limited, a company backed by David Charlton, the chief executive of The Officers Club, has purchased the business and assets of 118 out of the 150 stores operated by the Companies, securing the continued employment of over 1,000 members of staff across the UK.”

Ian Green, joint administrator and partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in Leeds said: “The sale to TimeC 1215 Limited represents a significantly better result for the creditors of the companies than any other alternative.”

Mr Charlton, a former accountant who started The Officers Club in Sunderland in the early 1990s and sourced clothes cheaply from Asia, selling them under its own-brand labels, said: “We are very pleased to be able to secure this deal and protect the employment of over 900 people in the stores and head office. We welcome the opportunity to take the business forward and look forward to a successful future.”

The 32 stores excluded from the sale will be closed with immediate effect.

The news about the Officers club came the same day a senior economist raised doubts over Gordon Brown’s £12.5bn VAT cut – branding it “not a good idea”.

Olivier Blanchard, chief economist at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), insisted it did not give consumers a real incentive to spend. His comments, in an interview with a French newspaper, were seized on by the Tories as lending weight to their argument that the move will not be effective.

Lending

THE number of mortgages approved for house purchase has dived by more than 60% during the past year to hit a new record low, figures showed yesterday.

Just 17,773 loans were approved for people buying a home during November, 14% fewer than in October and 60.7% less than in November last year, the British Bankers’ Association said.

There was also a steep drop in the number of people remortgaging during the month, with just 29,798 loans for people switching to a better deal in the pipeline, down from 52,452 the previous month.

The figure was the lowest for eight years.

Housing

THE Government was today (Wed) urged to invest more money in housing after new figures showing that almost 63,000 families in England are homeless.

The construction workers union Ucatt said the number of homeless people was a damning indictment of 30 years of failed government policies on housing.

The union said there had been a belief for far too long that people were only considered to be successful if they owned a house.

General-secretary Alan Ritchie said: “There has been an obsession with people buying their own homes for too long. It is high time that the Government created a housing market with a greater mix of tenures.”

Page 2: Economic misery is predicted >>

Economic misery is predicted

THE UK economy is sliding into recession faster than first thought, official figures revealed yesterday.

Revised data showed a sharper than expected 0.6% fall in output between July and September – the worst since 1990 and bigger than the 0.5% fall first estimated by the Office for National Statistics.

The figures added weight to predictions that the Bank of England will slash interest rates further to an all-time low below 2% in January to rescue the floundering economy.

But experts at Capital Economics also forecasted that overall GDP would fall by 2.5% in 2009 – the worst annual performance since 1947.

The biggest decline in 18 years from the UK’s services sector – which accounts for nearly three-quarters of economic output – was behind the fall, along with a fresh slide among manufacturers.

Although the UK’s second-quarter output was left unchanged at 0%,a stagnation which ended almost 16 years of growth, the recession will be officially confirmed in January when figures show a further decline in the final three months of 2008.

IHS Global Insight economist Howard Archer said rates could fall by as much as 1% again next month with mounting economic misery ahead.

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