Tuesday, April 27, 1999 Published at 12:35 GMT 13:35 UK
Business: The Company File
Co-op closes its non-food stores
The Co-operative Retail Services, one of the largest of Britain's independent co-operative societies, is selling more than 50 stores in England and Wales, putting up to 3,000 jobs at risk.
The company is pulling out of its non-food retailing operations, but will keep its funeral service, where it is the market leader in the UK.
Ten of its home furnishing stores trading as Homeworld and 40 Co-op Living department stores will be sold in three months' time.
The shops are being bought by new owners who will re-develop the sites for other business purposes.
Two Homeworld shops, in Hull and Norwich, are not being sold and will shut with the loss of 220 jobs.
A spokeswoman for Co-operative Retail Services said: "We are working to do anything we can to protect our employees."
The company would try to find alternative employment for them with the Co-op movement and would also be offering counselling, she added.
Privately held UK property developer Miller Group said it had bought 46 stores from the Co-op for £69m.
Thirty-six of the stores, mainly in town centres, would be redeveloped by Miller's property subsidiary, Miller Developments. The remaining 10 would be sold to Primark, the Dublin-based discount fashion retailer.
A spokesman for Miller Group said: "This is just a property transaction. The staffing issues are not really our concern."
Retail group Kingfisher, meanwhile, announced that its Chartwell Land unit was buying the 10 Homeworld stores from the CRS for £80.4m.
Kingfisher is planning to turn two into B&Q warehouses and four will be developed into general large retail units, possibly to be sold off.
Co-operative Retail Services, which has some 640 stores in the UK, was tipped as a bid target by UK newspapers over the weekend. But other parts of the organisation, which include a funeral business, travel agencies, insurance and motor dealerships, are not for sale.
The Co-op's non-food operations have been under pressure during the last three years. A major investment programme failed to improve the stores's performance.
Peter Rowbotham, who had been chairman of the Co-op Retail Service over the last six years, resigned at the weekend.
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