Plymouth enormous Office Outlet store has now shut with management thanking shoppers for their custom and telling them they will now have to go to Torquay for their stationery.
The store held a huge closing down sale at its 7,000sq ft Charles Church roundabout location in March 2019, as it prepared to move into the smaller former Maplin site in Cornwall Street.
When it shut for good on Sunday, April 7, it meant 13 Plymouth workers lost their jobs in the store.
And the relocation, which had promised to breathe new life into upper Cornwall Street, was off, leaving the city still with two large retail units that need filling.
Signs in the window at Plymouth’s closed Office Outlet branch said: “This store is now closed. The management and staff thank you for your custom,” and “Your nearest Office Outlet store is Torquay.”
Richard Hawes, joint administrator and partner at Deloitte, said that although advisers were still open to a sale of all or part of the business, some stores had to be closed. Nine went on April 7 and the remaining seven will shut on April 10. In total 161 jobs were lost.
The stationery supplier, once known as Staples, has been selling stock at up to 70% off as it made plans to shift bases.
The chain had 90 stores in the UK before shutting those in Plymouth, Beckton, Catterick, Gloucester, Newport (Isle of Wight), Merton, Newcastle, Staples Corner, Stratford, Cardiff, Carlisle, Manchester, Old Kent Road, Southampton, Walsall, and Weston Super Mare.
Administrators are eyeing a new buyer for the remainder of the portfolio.
Prior to the administration, Office Outlet bosses had been looking at the former Maplin store in Cornwall Street, which has been empty since that company ceased trading in June 2018.
It was hoped the current outlet would stay open until a new location was ready to accommodate it.
The Charles Church roundabout Office Outlet store is already being marketed by its landlord.
Plymouth’s retail ups and downs…
Office Outlet has been hit by the retail meltdown which has already claimed a number of high-profile brands, including Maplin.
In 2018 the company began closing stores and making redundancies as part of a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA), a controversial insolvency procedure which involves companies pressuring landlords to chop rents.
Office Outlet also carried out a huge restructuring programme following a “significant” decline in footfall across much of its estate.
Originally known as Staples, the company was renamed Office Outlet in late 2016 after being bought by Hilco Capital for a nominal sum.
Meanwhile, Maplin has been reborn as an online only operation after going out of business in 2018.
The Plymouth Maplin branch was one of more than 200 nationwide that closed down in 2018 after the electrical retailer went into administration and then folded, after a two-month closing-down sale.
The company only moved to the Cornwall Street base in 2015, when a £250,000 expansion, took it a few metres down the road from its previous home.
Maplin struggled to compete against rivals and online competitors, with the 40-year-old firm also complaining about the impact of Brexit, a weak consumer environment and the withdrawal of credit insurance.
Retail woes: the stores affected by the shopping crisis
The UK’s retail sector is quaking as inflation and taxes mount and consumer spending slips. Plymouth is not immune. These are the firms that have caught a cold, or are beyond life support, so far in 2018:
Toys R Us – The advertising jingle sang of toys in their millions, all under one roof, but the huge outlet in Western Approach is now empty as the toy store chain became the first big casualty of the UK’s retail meltdown. All Toys R Us stores nationwide are now closed or closing.
Bargain Booze – The off-licence chain Bargain Booze went into administration in April 2018 following a warning that earnings would be £5.2million less than expected. The chain, which has five outlets in Plymouth and another in Saltash, warned earnings for this financial year would be “below current market expectations”. But administrators were able offload the retail division to food wholesaler Bestway in a £7million deal.
Debenhams – Beleaguered Debenhams could shut floors in its Plymouth department store as it looks at solutions to the retail meltdown which has seen its pre-tax profits slump by 84 per cent and insurers cut back on suppliers’ credit cover. The chain is understood to be looking to downsize at least 30 stores blaming “profound change” in shopping habits for woes.
House of Fraser – Troubled department store chain House of Fraser announced it will shut storeswhen a Company Voluntary Agreement was accepted by creditors on June 22, 2018. It initially said just 18 outlets would still be trading, but it has since “saved” three stores, after being taken over by Sport Direct honcho Mike Ashley, including Plymouth’s. The company made a £43.9million loss in 2017 – blaming Brexit, terrorist attacks and increased online competition. Sales fell from £840.9million to £787.8million in 2017 – a drop of 6.3 per cent.
New Look – The budget retailer has had to weighs up “options” amid dismal sales figures and in April 2018 announced it could close 100 stores putting 1,500 jobs at risk.
Marks & Spencer – Retail bellwether Marks & Spencer, which has a huge store in Plymouth city centre, is closing 100 of its biggest stores, about a third of all those selling clothes and homeware, by 2022 after it reported a 62.1 per cent fall in pre-tax profit to £66.8million in the year to March 31, 2018.
Mothercare – The baby and maternity products chain issued a profits warning after like-for-like sales fell by 7.2 per cent during the 12 weeks to December 30, 2017. Mothercare has now decided to move out of Drake Circus mall, but will relocate to a unit more than double the size at the under-construction Plymouth Gateway Retail Park at Marsh Mills. The retailer is looking to shut anything up to more than 50 stores and its March 2018 trading update revealed total UK sales were down 5.6 per cent in the 12 weeks to March 24, compared with the same period in 2017.
Carpetright – The troubled retailer has been floored by painful losses and is preparing to close even more stores – and said things will get worse after Brexit. For the 26 weeks to October 27, 2019, the group made a loss before tax of £11.7million. Underlying earnings swung to a loss of £1.7million compared with a profit of £8.6million for the same time in 2017. Carpetright also said it was braced for a damaging dip in consumer spending and confidence after Brexit. In March 2018 it shut three Devon stores, but kept the two in Plymouth open.
Maplin – Electrical goods retailer Maplin collapsed into administration in February 2018 putting jobs at risk. The company, which employed 2,500 people in the UK and had a large store in Plymouth’s Cornwall Street, said the capital needed to prop up the business – and shield it against tough trading conditions – had proved “impossible to raise”. The store had a huge closing down sale in April 2018 and finally shut in Plymouth in on June 11. All stores in the group are expected to be shut by July.
Poundworld – The budget retailer went into administration in June 2018 after revealing dismal sales figures, putting 5,100 jobs at risk. Private equity-owned Poundworld shut its huge Plymouth store in New George Street in July 2018 after staging a “closing down sale”.
Laura Ashley – Womenswear and home furnishings retailer Laura Ashley is to close stores after seeing annual profits plummet to just £100,000. The group – which owns 160 stores across the UK including in Plymouth, Exeter, Barnstaple and Truro – saw statutory pre-tax profits fall from £6.3million a year earlier as retail like-for-like sales slid 0.4 per cent amid “difficult” trading conditions..
H&M – Fashion giant H&M has said it is braced for further sales falls across its stores in 2018, including its Plymouth outlet in Drake Circus Shopping Centre.
Poundstretcher – Credit insurers aretightening terms for suppliers to Poundstretcher, a move which is generally seen as an indicator of concerns a retailer is about to go bust. Poundstretcher, which has a huge outlet at Plymouth’s Friary Retail Park, in Exeter Street, saw a £3.4million profit turn into a £3.5million loss in 2017.
Moss Bros – The men’s outfitters made a £1.7million pre tax loss for first six months of 2018 – and blamed the World Cup
The company – which has stores in Plymouth, Exeter, Falmouth and Truro – has warned over profits after hot summer weather and the World Cup “distraction” pushed the menswear chain’s profits into the red. Earnings show the retailer swung to a pre-tax loss of £1.7million for the six months to July 28, having posted a profit of £3.9million in the same period last year. The retailer said it was knocked by £1.2million in store impairments, in light of a “small number of underperforming stores“, and took a further £800,000 hit amid “reorganisation and employee-related costs”.
Game Digital – Profits at Game, which has two stores in Plymouth city centre, nosedived by more than a quarter – amid a tough market for consoles – leaving the retailer looking to revive its fortunes through the fast-rising e-sports sector.
Homebase – There are fears Homebase stores throughout the South West could be dragged into a second wave of closures that could see up to 40 of the DIY outlets shut – putting hundreds of jobs at risk. The DIY chain, which has 21 outles in the West Country including Plymouth, is sounding out advisers for a potential Company Voluntary Agreement (CVA), having already closed 17 outlets.
Topshop, Topman, Dorothy Perkins, Burton, Evans and Wallis – In May 2018 Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia Group reported profits dipped by 42 per cent from £215.2million to £124.1million and sales fell 5.6 per cent in the year to August 26, 2017, sliding from £2.01billion to £1.91billion.
Sports Direct – Bargain tracksuit and trainer retailer Sports Direct blamed an £85million hit from its stake in Debenhams for dragging full-year profits down 72.5 per cent. The chain, which has a huge outlet in New George Street, Plymouth, said pre-tax profits plunged to £77.5million in the year to April 29, 2018 – from £281.6million a year earlier.
McColl’s – Convenience store operator McColl’s has seen pre-tax profits nearly halve to £2.3 million in just six months during one of the “most challenging” period in the chain’s history. The firm, which has more than 10 outlets in the Plymouth area, saw its surplus drop from £4.5 million during the same period last year. The company blamed the decline, for the 26 weeks to May 27, 2018, in part on the collapse of wholesaler Palmer & Harvey, which disrupted its supply chain. It also impacted McColl’s like-for-like sales which fell 2.7 per cent in the first half of the year.
Saltrock Surfwear – The Plymouth and Exeter branches of the fashion chain were among five that closed, with 29 staff losing their jobs, after the firm went into administration and was instantly taken over by the national Crew Clothing Co Group. Saltrock was started in the 1980s but taken over by Plymouth Argyle’s departing chairman James Brent’s company in 2012.
Footasylum – Streetwear store Footasylum swung to a £2.5million half-year loss bemoaning a challenging trading environment.The premium sports chain, which opened in the mid-tier at Drake Circus Shopping Centre in 2016, has posted a pre-tax loss of £2.5million in the 26 weeks to August 25, 2018, compared with a £1.7million profit in the same period in 2017.
Paperchase – Stationery chain Paperchase suffered a mammoth fall in profits and had its credit insurance cover slashed in September 2018. The company, which has a flagship store in Plymouth’s Drake Circus Shopping Centre, is coming under mounting pressure after one of its main credit insurers reduced cover following the slump in profits. In March 2019 it entered a CVA and said it would close stores.
Superdry – Fashion chain Superdry has estimated profits will take a £10million hit and is blaming the weather – again.
The chain – which has outlets in Exeter, Truro, Newquay, St Ives and Plymouth’s Drake Circus Shopping Centre – issued a profit warning after it said “unseasonably hot weather” had impacted its autumn and winter sales. Earlier in 2018 it complained the Beast from the East snowstorm had hit sales.
American Golf – The Plymouth and Exeter branches of huge sports retailer American Golf will stay open after a late rescue package saved the company – though the troubled firm is shutting outlets across the country. Customer orders and gift cards are also protected after Europe’s largest golf retailer was rescued from collapse in a deal which safeguards 900 jobs and will keep open the store at Plymouth Golf Centre, Elburton, and Exeter’s at Bishops Court Retail Park in Sidmouth Road.
Bonmarché – The budget women’s fashion chain saw profits tank dramatically. The company – which has branches across the South West including Plymouth’s New George Street – watched at profits were nearly cut in half in the first six months of 2018 as weak consumer sentiment and lower footfall stung the struggling retailer.
B&Q – DIY giant B&Q is facing woe after seeing sales tank. The company’s owner, Kingfisher, warned there was “no quick fix” to its problems as it posted a slump in sales at the DIY chain in November 2018, and said it will exit its business in Russia, Spain and Portugal to focus on its core markets. New figures show B&Q in the UK saw a 2.9 per cent fall in like-for-like sales in the three months to October 31, 2018.
HMV – Music and movies retailer HMV went into administration for the second time in just six years in December 2018 putting 2,200 jobs at risk. Although it was later brought out of administration by Canadian music store mogul Doug Putman, it still shut 27 branches including in Plymouth and Exeter. HMV had blamed a huge slump in the UK’s CD and DVD market for making its situation “unsustainable”. It blamed a “tsunami of challenges” facing the UK retail sector, and changing behaviour from customers. Plymouth’s store reopened on February 23, 2019.
Office Outlet – The stationery chain went into administration in March 2019 and started closing stores. Plymouth’s huge outlet near the Charles Church roundabout was on the list for the first closures. It had hoped to move into a smaller unit in the city centre but ended up being put on a cull list with its last day being April 7, 2019.
Boots – In April 2019 the owner of retail chain Boots has warned over UK store closures as it looks to slash costs amid the “most difficult” quarter in the group’s history.
US-based Walgreens Boots Alliance said it had started taking “decisive steps” in the UK to cut costs, including reviewing its near-2,500 Boots retail stores.
Ann Summers – Lingerie and sex toy emporium Ann Summershired special property troubleshooters in April 2019 to try and cut its rent bills after the company swung to a £3.16million loss and blamed Brexit.
The chain – which has a large outlet in Plymouth’s New George Street and also in Truro, Exeter and Torquay- wants talks with landlords as it becomes the latest retail brand hit by problems on the high street. Ann Summers, home of the Rampant Rabbit and something called “ticklers”, blamed Brexit for causing the value of sterling to dip and thereby causing profits to fall. The firm is also facing stiff competition, no pun intended, from online rivals.
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