Clintons, the greetings card chain, plans to shut one in five of its shops and is demanding cuts to rent on most of the rest as it becomes the latest retailer to seek concessions from high street landlords.
Clintons, run by chief executive Eddie Shepherd, told landlords on Friday that 66 out of 332 sites have been earmarked for closure. The chain wants cheaper rent on more than 200 of the remainder.
Restructuring documents seen by The Sunday Telegraph said: “Approximately 90 of the company’s stores are currently loss-making with the business forecasting that sales will continue to decline.”
Creditors, including suppliers, are expected to vote on the proposals early next month. Clintons also hopes to renegotiate key supplier contracts.
The retailer, which was set up in 1968 and employs 2,500 people, is owned by the Weiss family, which until recently controlled sister business American Greetings across the pond.
They sold a 60pc stake in American Greetings in 2018 to Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, the buyout firm where Sir Terry Leahy, a former chief executive of Tesco, is an adviser.
Separately, the family drafted in consultants at KPMG in the UK to try to sell Clintons, but “no acceptable offers were received’’.
Clintons made sales of £188m in 2018, down from £201m the year before. Its losses narrowed from £19.4m to £14.2m in 2018.
It looked at further investment and other refinancing deals before it took the company voluntary arrangement (CVA) route. The controversial form of insolvency can help prevent retailers from going bust by allowing them to slash costs. It requires the approval of landlords and other creditors.
A Clintons spokesman said: “Discussions are continuing with our landlords but no decisions have been made.”
A string of big-name retailers including Toys R Us, Maplin and Mothercare’s UK business have gone bust.
New Look, Debenhams, House of Fraser and Monsoon Accessorize, among others, have turned to CVAs to shut stores and slash rents