Business

Anxious wait for Smith City staff as closures loom

Smiths City in Blenheim may not be included in the sale agreement. File photo.

Staff at one of Blenheim’s biggest stores face an anxious wait to find out if they still have jobs.

Smiths City bosses yesterday revealed they had negotiated a conditional $60 million sale.

But seven of the 29 stores nationwide will shut after being ditched from the sale agreement, with around 165 of the 465-strong workforce set to lose their jobs.

The fate of the Blenheim store is expected to be made public on Friday, with no official word on whether it was included in the buyout.

The store was open for business as usual over the weekend.

Founder of refrigerated logistics company Big Chill, Coiln Neal, has agreed the conditional sale under the banner of Polar Capital.

Smiths City Chair Alastair Kerr says the shock move will hopefully help the nationwide store stay afloat in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

“As we signalled at the end of March and earlier this month, the Covid-19 pandemic has delivered a material and significant shock to the business,” he says.

The final number of stores to be sold is dependent on the lease transfers and new lease terms being agreed for those transferring stores, a spokesman says.

In addition to acquiring the stores Polar Capital has also committed to taking on some of company’s debt and liabilities.

The final amount expected to be received is $8 million.

Alastair says the move will help save some jobs.

“This shock has substantially shortened the time available for the turnaround programme that was the cornerstone of the company’s strategic plan.

“Faced with this shorter timeframe, it became clear that Smiths City needed to bring new capital into the business to drive the turnaround.

“However, it has now become clear that the transaction we have announced offers the greatest opportunity for Smiths City to endure for the long term.

“It also offers the greatest opportunity to protect the jobs of as many of our staff as we can in this uncertain time,” he says.

Polar Capital’s Colin Neal says the firm is a trusted brand and all commitments to customers will be honoured.

“If a customer has paid Smiths City for a product, they will get the product.

“I am looking forward to working with the Smiths City team to build on this proud legacy.

“I am also grateful for the resilience and continuing loyalty they and the broader community of partners, have shown as we worked through this period of uncertainty.”

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