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England shirt sale slump jobs threat

PUBLISHED: 15:51 23 April 2008 | UPDATED: 10:59 12 August 2010

JOBS are at risk as a high-street sports chain axes 72 stores because England FC shirt sales crashed when the team failed to qualify for Euro 2008. JJB Sports bosses, who run branches in south east London, revealed they were to close 72 of 400 stores by

JOBS are at risk as a high-street sports chain axes 72 stores because England FC shirt sales crashed when the team failed to qualify for Euro 2008.

JJB Sports' bosses, who run branches in south east London, revealed they were to close 72 of 400 stores by the end of April.

Those under threat include branches at New Road, Gravesend, Bluewater shopping centre, Orpington Retail Park and the Broadway Shopping Centre in Bexleyheath,

The company would not confirm which stores are set to close, but it is thought the stores in north Kent could avoid the cull.

Chris Ronnie, Chief Executive of JJB, said: "The decision to close the 72 stores is based on the fact that they are non-profitable and are a huge strain on the business. There are 1,200 employees across those 72 stores, 400 will be reassigned within our store portfolio and it will unfortunately affect 800 people."

Profits at the sportswear store dropped by 28.5 per cent last year. After England failed to qualify for Euro 2008, the firm struggled to match the strong sales of England replica kits that were sold for the World cup in 2006.

Roger Lane Smith, chairman of JJB, Roger Lane Smith, said: "We are taking significant action to improve the performance of JJB's retail stores. Whilst we have identified a number of stores for closure, which will itself strengthen our remaining store portfolio, we are also investing to improve the quality of our stores and product with further store refits, the introduction of new products from our own brands."

Just a day earlier, fashion store Ethel Austin, which has a shop in High Street, Orpington, announced that they were going into administration. The company employs 2,800 staff at 300 stores across the UK. Philip Duffy, administrator for Ethel Austin, said: "At this stage, it's too early to be certain about the exact reasons for the financial difficulties.

"Our primary concern is to ensure that the business continues to trade in the coming weeks and that a suitable buyer is found.

"Despite the current challenges faced by the retail sector we remain confident that a buyer can be found."

ed.riley@archant.co.uk

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