Another UK high street chain falls

The British high street was dealt another blow today when fashion retailer USC went into administration, putting 300 jobs at risk.

The British high street was dealt another blow today when fashion retailer USC went into administration, putting 300 jobs at risk.

Fifteen of the group's 58 shops across the UK are affected, said Bryan Jackson at PKF, who has been appointed administrator.

He said a deal had been negotiated with company Dundonald Holdings Ltd, which is buying up to 43 of the stores and safeguarding the remaining 1,127 jobs at the high street chain.

The remaining 15 stores will be temporarily operated by the administrator.

The 300 jobs at risk will be a mixture of full-time and part-time positions.

USC is a clothes retailer specialising in designer-branded clothing. Founded with one shop in Edinburgh in 1989, it opened stores across Britain.

The chain, which has its headquarters in Dundonald, Ayrshire, was owned by investment firm West Coast Capital (WCC), founded by tycoon Tom Hunter, one of Britain's richest men.

Dundonald Holdings Ltd, which put together the rescue package for most of the stores, is part of this wider business.

This means the private equity group is effectively buying back part of its own business after putting it into administration.

USC follows a slew of high street names who have been hit by the economic downturn.

Woolworths is due to close its last store on January 5 unless a last-minute buyer is found.

Furniture retailer MFI as well as music and games chain Zavvi have also gone into administration.

Fellow strugglers Whittard of Chelsea and the Officers Club called in administrators but were immediately sold in rescue deals.

Administrators have also been called in at childrenswear chain Adams.

Mr Jackson blamed the poor economic climate for USC's ill fortune but hailed the rescue package as a "positive deal".

He said: "The impact of the credit crunch is continuing to spread into the wider economy beyond the property and financial sectors.

"As has been well publicised retail operators are facing extremely challenging times.

"Given these circumstances this is a positive deal which retains the majority of jobs and shops."

Jim McMahon, partner in WCC, said the deal that had been negotiated was the only way of assuring the business survived.

"Ultimately we had to ask ourselves, what's better, the loss of 15 stores or all 58?

"The answer was unequivocal.

"Having taken that action we are now confident that with the support of our suppliers and landlords, with whom we are now negotiating, that we can deliver a strong and profitable business with sustainable employment prospects for the remaining staff going forward."

USC was formed in 1989 and acquired by WCC in 2004.

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