Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Tesco's Swoop Puts Jobs in Danger

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Tesco's Swoop Puts Jobs in Danger

Article excerpt

Byline: By Daniel Thomson

Hundreds of jobs hung in the balance last night after the owner of three North department stores announced it was selling up.

The Merchant Retail Group revealed it is to close Tynedale Park in Hexham with the loss of 171 jobs, selling the site for pounds 17m to Tesco, which has been looking to create a superstore in the town for years.

As a result of the sale, Merchant Retail said it also had to sell off its Joplings department stores division which includes two of the region's most historic stores ( the original Joplings in Sunderland and Robbs in Hexham ( but warned both shops would close if no buyer is found by the autumn.

The company claimed it was forced to put both Joplings, which employs 181 staff and Robbs, which has 143 workers, up for sale as neither could survive without revenue from Tynedale Park.

Combined with the jobs already lost at Tynedale Retail Park and Joplings' head office in Sunderland, a total of 613 jobs could be lost by the end of the year.

Merchant Retail said it regretted the job losses but Tesco had made it "an offer it could not refuse" or Tynedale Park at almost three times the store's net value of pounds 6.2mn.

Northumberland's largest discount retail outlet, Tynedale Park was opened in 1989 and sells fashion, furniture, gifts, footwear and homeware and also contains a 300-seater cafe restaurant, pet centre, travel agent and outdoor garden centre.

Last night, Tesco's arrival was welcomed in Hexham but concern was expressed over the loss of jobs and the possible closure after 185 years of Robbs ( bought by Joplings in 1981 ( which sells fashion, electrical goods, furniture and gifts as well as a post office and WH Smith concession.

The fortunes of all the stores in the group have declined in recent years because of increased competition, with Tynedale Park described in May as "the biggest disappointment of the year" by Merchant.

Merchant Retail chief executive Philip Newton said yesterday: "The board is extremely sad to have reached this conclusion and is deeply concerned for the future of many people. …

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