Deal to save Robbs is almost complete

A deal to save a North-East department store and 140 jobs was nearing completion last night.

Robbs, in Fore Street, Hexham

A deal to save a North-East department store and 140 jobs was nearing completion last night.

Administrators acting for Robbs in Fore Street, Hexham, say the store is likely to be sold to retail company Vergo as a going concern "in the near future".

The future of the store, which has been in the town since 1818, was thrown into doubt when parent company Owen Owen went into administration in February.

The store was put up for sale as a going concern but with no buyer forthcoming time looked to be running out, and two weeks ago today WED workers were told that the store would close and that they would be made redundant.

Philip Duffy, Partner at Kroll, the firm that handled the administration process, yesterday confirmed that a prospective buyer had been found for each of Owen Owen's businesses in England. He said: "For the avoidance of doubt, there is no absolute guarantee that the proposed sale will take place. However, we remain hopeful of completing the sale of the business as a going concern in the near future."

Owen Owen's other businesses include Lewis's in Liverpool and the Jopling's store in Sunderland.

Mr Duffy added that contract negotiations into the sale of Owen Owen were still continuing.

It is not yet known how many staff will keep their jobs, or whether the store will keep the Robbs name.

The proposed deal comes at the end of a tense time for workers at the store. An extension to the planned closing date of May 12 was granted, as long as the shop had goods to sell. But with many shelves empty time was running out for the store, which is also home to number of other shops and the town's post office.

Hexham MP Peter Atkinson said the development was "good news" for the town.

"We don't know what form the shop will take yet but at least it gives hope that some of the staff will remain employed and that we won't be faced with a great hole in the retail sector of Hexham."

Tynedale Council has also been involved in the negotiations. Chief executive Richard Robson said: "We are very encouraged with the way negotiations are progressing and are having productive talks with both the administrators and prospective purchasers. We remain hopeful that a positive outcome can be achieved in the very near future."

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