Page last updated at 17:08 GMT, Tuesday, 15 April 2008 18:08 UK

Job fears for Ethel Austin staff

Ethel Austin stitched shirt
Ethel Austin is a well-known brand in the Liverpool area

Merseyside retailer Ethel Austin, which is the official uniforms supplier to Liverpool - European City of Culture 2008, has gone into administration.

The company employs about 2,800 staff at 300 stores covering Scotland to the south of England, as well as its Knowsley-based HQ near Liverpool.

Latest annual turnover for the company was in the region of 150m.

Administrator Menzies Corporate Restructuring said it hopes to find a buyer for the firm, founded in 1934.

Philip Duffy of Manchester-based Menzies said: "At this stage, it's too early to be certain about the exact reasons for the financial difficulties.

"Our primary concern is to ensure that the business continues to trade in the coming weeks and that a suitable buyer is found.

"Despite the current challenges faced by the retail sector we remain confident that a buyer can be found."

Mr Duffy added that Ethel Austin had a good brand and good customer base and this, together with its national coverage, should make it attractive to potential buyers.

Shopworkers' union Usdaw, which has 600 members among the firm's staff, said the announcement was not a total surprise.

John Gorle, Usdaw National Officer, said: "We've been aware for some time of the financial difficulties of the business.

"We will now be working closely with Ethel Austin and administrators in an attempt to secure the employment of as many members as possible."

The company, which began as a wool shop in Liverpool, announced a major expansion in 2004.

Last year it announced it had clinched the contract to supply the uniforms for volunteers at this year's capital of culture events.

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