Allders department store in Croydon in negotiations to stay open
DESPERATE negotiations are under way to save Croydon's historic Allders department store from closure – with the loss of about 850 full and part-time jobs.
Allders boss Andrew MacKenzie is understood to be seeking an injection of working capital into the 150-year-old business.
He has been talking to Allders' landlords Minerva and the council about receiving financial support to keep the business going.
The talks follow an application by Mr MacKenzie to a court in Bristol on Friday seeking "a notice of intent to appoint an administrator".
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No one would confirm any details of the negotiations but it is believed that Mr MacKenzie has been asking for a rent-free period from Minerva and a business rate-free period from the council.
All a spokesman for Minerva would say on Wednesday was: "We remain supportive of Allders and seek an outcome that works for all of the stakeholders concerned."
Croydon Council leader Mike Fisher told the Advertiser on Wednesday: "As far as I am aware, Allders is not in administration. We continue to have faith in the management of Allders and will work with them, as we do with all businesses, to make sure they continue to be a successful and going concern."
In reality the council is relatively hamstrung in what it can do.
The most it could contribute to rate relief would be £200,000 before support could be construed as being State Aid under EU regulations.
It is believed Allders' annual rate bill is in the region of £900,000.
What will be of concern to Minerva, the council and probably businesses in general, is the impression a closure would have on the image of a town aiming for major investment and regeneration.
For, while the town centre has been given an undoubted confidence boost from the battle between Westfield and Hammerson to redevelop the Whitgift Centre, a start on any project is likely to be at least three years off.
The sight of a boarded-up store facing both North End and George Street for three years is something everyone is desperate to avoid.
The latest problems to face Allders come just four months after Mr MacKenzie, with two partners, took a 70 per cent controlling interest in the business.
The deal left Harold Tillman, owner of the Jaeger fashion group who saved the store in 2005, with only a 30 per cent stake in Allders.
In February Mr MacKenzie told the Advertiser: "We have secured both the future of the store and the people who work in it. It is a good business move for us and for Croydon."
Mr MacKenzie was not available for comment this week.