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Blacks and Millets up online sale discounts ahead of administration

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The Blacks and Millets websites are today offering a further 20% off sale prices in an online-only reduction as its parent company, Blacks Leisure Group, prepares for administration. The company's shares were today suspended from the London Stock Exchange ahead of the move.

Millets and Blacks together make up what is believed to be the UK's largest retailer of outdoor leisure products in the country, employing 3,600 people in total. Blacks Leisure Group today said its outlets would continue to trade right up until the company is put into pre-pack administration to sell its assets. That step is likely to follow some time negotiating with potential buyers. Investors, it is now clear, will not see any return on their investment.

Sale prices at the company’s Blacks and Millets brands, previously already offering up to 70% off, have now been reduced by a further 20% across all goods in an online-only offer. Meanwhile Black Leisure shares closed at 1.25p before their suspension.

Blacks Leisure Group this morning issued a statement saying it was now clear that any sale of its assets would be out of administration, since its sale as a going concern had failed to materialise. The statement said: “The board has now determined that any sale of the trade, assets and brands will be effected through an administration process.

“Therefore it is expected that the process to commence the appointment of administrators of the company and certain of its subsidiaries are only likely to take effect just before the completion of any such sale.” In the meantime, it said, the group’s subsidiaries would continue to trade as normal while the sale of its assets is arranged.

Three KPMG partners are to be appointed as administrators.

Jon Copestake, retail industry analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit, said: “The news from Blacks comes as little surprise following weeks of speculation over possible buyers for the outdoor clothing retailer. It is not the first big UK high street casualty of 2012 given the closures announced by La Senza and Past Times this year as well as Barratts, Hawkins Bazaar and D2 Jeans in December 2011. Neither will it be the last high profile casualty given the weak overall economic outlook for 2012. Things continue to look particularly bad for high street retailers who will continue to struggle with e-commerce and emerging m-commerce channels.”

The news presages the end for some great British retailing names. The company's origins date back to 1861, when Thomas Black started a sail-making company in Scotland, acquiring skills that were later put to use making tents. It was named Blacks Outdoor in 1994 and since then has specialised in pursuits from walking and mountaineering to skiing.

The Millets brand was founded in 1893 with the aim, according to the Blacks Leisure Group website, of offering “a comprehensive range of outdoor clothing and equipment at great value for money from friendly knowledgeable staff.”

The two brands currently trade through a total of 306 stores in the UK and Ireland, of which 208 are Millets branches. They also each have a dedicated website. Millets pioneered the concept of Click and Collect at the Glastonbury Festival http://www.internetretailing.net/2010/06/buy-now-collect-at-glastonbury-says-millets/ in June 2010.

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