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Gloucestershire Business News

High Street retailer close to collapse

It pierces 3,000,000 ears a year and brought the JoJo Bow to every primary school playground in Britain, but now Claire's is on the brink of collapse.

The US-based retailer has around $2 billion (£1.44 billion) worth of debt. It is set to file for bankruptcy ahead of a $60 million (£43.25 million) interest payment which is due today, as reported by Retail Gazette.

Claire's trades from 4,220 locations in 45 countries. It has 378 stores in the UK, including in Gloucester and Cheltenham. The Cheltenham store has been boarded up for refurbishment for the last few weeks.

Ownership of the company is set to be passed from Apollo Global Management to lenders. It is understood that these lenders include Elliot Capital Management and Monarch Alternative Capital, which specialises in distressed companies.

Although it is not yet clear how a bankruptcy filing in the US would affect Claire's UK stores, it is following a similar pattern to the recently-collapsed Toys R Us, whose US counterpart filed for bankruptcy ahead of the group going into administration in the UK.

Claire's is far from the only UK retailer in trouble. Over a quarter of the UK's largest retailers are loss-making and are expected to be left in financial chaos following planned interest rates rises this year.

Research from financial analytics firm Company Watch, which predicted some of the largest retail downfalls over the last year, has placed nearly 400 retailers with total assets of over £5 million in its "warning area".

26.5 per cent (430) of the 1600 retailers featured in the study were found to already be loss-making, including: Hobbs, TM Lewin, Paperchase and Crew Clothing. Next and Moss Bros were among the most financially robust companies.

Punchline says: "While some parents might secretly be rejoicing about the thought of a Saturday without a trip to Claire's, this is yet more bad news for the high street. And it looks like things are going to get worse before they get better."

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