Online retail guru’s bid for website could kill Comet on high street

More Comet stores to close. Picture: PA
More Comet stores to close. Picture: PA
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THE entrepreneur behind Appliances Online has tabled a bid for Comet in a move that could see the failed electrical chain disappear from retail parks and high streets.

John Roberts, who set up Appliances Online in 2000, confirmed he had put in a “seven-figure offer” for Comet’s website after it collapsed into administration earlier this month.

He said his Bolton-based business would hope to run the Comet brand online, but said a deal would depend on whether he could rescue the brand before too much damage was done through the administration process.

Administrator Deloitte is also understood to have received a bid for 140 of the 195 Comet stores, which could save more than 2,000 jobs, according to sources.

Deloitte said it had been in discussions with a number of interested parties over different parts of the Comet business.

Some 1,500 posts at the collapsed electricals chain have 
already been axed, including 603 home delivery network jobs on Monday. A further 57 head office posts in Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire, 56 employees from a call centre in Clevedon, and 17 from an office in Hull also went this week. The sites were already the subject of 330 redundancies last week.

Deloitte has also closed 27 of the 41 shops it had already 
announced it would shut by the end of the month.

Roberts, who said Comet’s poor attitude to its customers caused its downfall, wants a quick sale of the business.

He said it was unlikely Comet would survive in any form on the retail parks.

The collapse of Comet marks one of the biggest high street casualties since the demise of Woolworths in 2008 and came a month after the failure of JJB Sports.

The group was hit by weak high street trading conditions, competition from online rivals and being unable to secure the trade credit insurance needed to safeguard suppliers.

In particular, it was knocked by the lack of first-time home-buyers, who had been key customers for Comet, according to Deloitte.

• Sales growth at department store chain John Lewis slowed last week as the company ran into tougher comparisons in the run up to Christmas.

Sales from the employee-owned chain’s shops and website were up 7.6 per cent year-on-year in the week to 17 November, less than the growth of more than 12 per cent reported in the group’s financial year to date.

Operations director Dino Rocos said electrical items and home technology were the best selling categories.

“Customers are gearing up for Christmas by purchasing 
kitchen gadgets to help them with the dinner preparation, driving small electrical sales up 23.3 per cent versus last year,” he said.