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Sports shop jobs threat

PUBLISHED: 17:29 23 April 2008 | UPDATED: 09:41 23 August 2010

MANY people s jobs are at risk after a high-street sports chain revealed plans to axe 72 stores, writes Ed Riley. JJB Sports, which has branches in north Kent and south east London, revealed last Wednesday it was to close 72 of its 400 stores by the end

MANY people's jobs are at risk after a high-street sports chain revealed plans to axe 72 stores, writes Ed Riley.

JJB Sports, which has branches in north Kent and south east London, revealed last Wednesday it was to close 72 of its 400 stores by the end of April.

One of the key factors identified in the mass closure is the poor sales of England replica shirts after the national team failed to qualify for the European Championships this summer.

Stores 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 following England's failure to reach 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, said: "We are taking significant action to improve the performance of JJB's retail stores. While 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 products with further store refits and the introduction of new products from our own brands."

Just a day before the cull was announced, fashion store Ethel Austin, which has a shop in the Thamesgate Shopping Centre, Gravesend, and 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.

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