Jobs lost in Staffordshire as sports retailer JJB is sold to rival
THREE JJB Sports stores in Staffordshire and South Cheshire closed down yesterday with the loss of dozens of jobs.
Administrators agreed to sell the JJB brand to rival Sports Direct International in a £23.8 million deal, leading to the closure of 133 stores across the country.
While 20 stores will remain open, branches in Hanley, Crewe and Stafford will all close.
Around 2,200 JJB staff have been made redundant across the UK.
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Staff were informed of the deal during yesterday's trading hours and were told to stop serving customers.
By the afternoon, the doors at all three stores were locked with notices in windows explaining the development to customers.
Former JJB customer Steve Jones was one of several to arrive at the Hanley store in the Octagon Retail Park yesterday afternoon only to find it was closed.
The 43-year-old, from Meir Heath, said: "I knew JJB was going into administration, but I didn't realise it would be closing down so soon.
"I do shop at JJB quite a lot, especially at the end of the year. My wife collects the Park shopping vouchers, which you could spend at JJB. Hopefully we'll be able to use them at Sports Direct now.
"It is a shame that JJB has closed down."
Doug Wardle, spokesman for the City Centre Partnership traders' group, said the closure of the store was 'tragic' news for Hanley.
He said: "The closure of any store is a disaster for the city centre.
"We want to attract retailers to come here, so this is the last thing we need.
"It's particularly bad because JJB is a big store, and those units can be very difficult to fill.
"It's a tragedy, there's no other way I can describe it. Closures like this can be the death of a city."
The deal with Sports Direct means 550 jobs will be saved.
JJB staff were hoping for a much better outcome as Sports Direct was reportedly looking to safeguard up to 1,500 jobs and buy up to 60 stores.
But David McCorquodale, corporate finance partner at KPMG, who led the sales process, said the level of cash and further operational restructuring required to rescue a more substantial part of the business was too much risk for most interested parties.
JJB was started by former Blackburn Rovers player and Wigan Athletic owner Dave Whelan, who bought a single store in Wigan in 1971.
It eventually became the UK's biggest sports retailer, with more than 400 stores.
But by 2008 the chain was struggling for survival, after being hit hard by the financial crisis and the expansion of rivals Sports Direct and JD Sports.
Recent years have seen it embark on a series of fund-raising initiatives from shareholders and more than halve its store estate.
JJB secured its most recent lifeline four months ago when it landed £20 million from U.S. retailer Dick's Sporting Goods and a further £10 million from existing shareholders.
More dire trading over the summer left the stricken firm asking shareholders for another cash injection.
But this time they ran out of patience, finally forcing the group to throw in the towel and put itself up for sale.