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UPDATED: Republic confirms administrators called in
1:00pm Wednesday 13th February 2013 in News
Fashion chain Republic has collapsed into administration, putting 2,500 jobs at risk, including those at its Bournemouth town centre store.
Ernst & Young, administrator to the Leeds-based group, said the 121 shops would continue to trade while it looks for a buyer for the business.
Nigel Hedges, president of Bournemouth Chamber of Trade and Commerce, said: “All of these stores in that part of the town are in the most up to date, newly-built units.
“They are a fantastic retail environment for the shopper. Footfall in Commercial Road has registered increases year-on-year, especially since a change of major high street brand there in Primark.
“While Commercial Road is considered a great retail area, we’re losing our high street brands because of their national financial structures.
“Again we record sadness that local people may find their jobs in jeopardy.”
Republic, which started as a men's denim retailer in 1986 under the Best Jeans brand in Leeds, was hit by a ''sudden and rapid decline'' in sales at the end of last month after poor trading results over the autumn.
Ernst said it had made 150 staff redundant at Republic's headquarters in Leeds.
Administrator Hunter Kelly said: ''Republic suffered poor trading results in the autumn, and whilst sales picked up in December there has been a sudden and rapid decline in sales in late January.
He added: ''We will continue to trade Republic, with a view to selling the business as a going concern. The brand Republic is well recognised, particularly in the North. It has a powerful website offering, owns well-known brand names, and has some very attractive and profitable stores.''
Republic, which targets the competitive youth fashion market, sells brands including Jack Jones, SoulCal, Diesel and Firetrap.
It was bought by private equity firm TPG in June 2010 in a deal worth around £300 million, with the founders understood to have retained a significant stake.
Republic's focus in the north of England - an area that has been hit particularly badly by the recession - is thought to have contributed to the poor trading.
Mr Kelly said the impact of recent poor results on cash flow had meant the business was unable to continue to operate outside of an insolvency process.
The Daily Echo spoke to customers at the Bournemouth store.
Carla Webb, 41, from Bournemouth said she would miss the chain if it disappeared from the high street: "I'd definitely miss Republic if it was gone. I just asked them if they were closing and they told me they haven't heard anything. I really like shopping here."
Other customers said they didn't go into the store on a regular basis but when they did they mainly went in to browse.
Demi Tarrant, 21, of Bournemouth said she didn't go in the shop often: "I don't shop here regularly - just now and then. I wouldn't come into town to shop there but I do pop in if I pass by."
Jemma Rowland, 20, from Bournemouth said she mainly went in to browse: "I don't really buy that much there but I do go in to look quite a lot."
Lucy Pittwood, 19, from Bournemouth said although she went into the shop, she didn't buy clothes from there. "I do go in to browse around, but I don't always actually buy clothes from there."
The chain's woes follow a bleak start to the year for the retail sector, with a series of high-profile firms having hit the wall.
Thousands of jobs have been axed after music retailer HMV, camera group Jessops and DVD and games rental group Blockbuster called in administrators last month.
Republic's chairman Andy Bond, a former Asda boss, stepped down last week having handed in his notice last year after less than two years. The chain recently hired ex-TK Maxx boss Paul Sweetenham as chief executive.
Mr Kelly said: ''We are grateful for the continued support of all employees and customers during this time, and would like to thank everyone at Republic for their commitment and hard work as the business continues to trade.''
Ernst & Young has set up a helpline for customers on 0113 298 2450