Sale of Ortak shops looms as no buyer found

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No buyers have been found for troubled Orkney jewellery firm Ortak leaving the jobs of over 100 employees in doubt.

The company, which operates retails stores across Scotland, went into administration last March, blaming difficult trading conditions leading to a downturn in fortunes.

James Stephen, BDO business restructuring partner and joint administrator of Ortak Jewellery, said since March, they had retained staff and continued to trade the business while they explored all options to secure the future of the business.

But he added: “Regretfully, despite an extensive marketing process and discussions with a number of interested parties over the past several months, a sale of the whole Ortak business appears unlikely.

“However, there is some interest in the assets of the business, principally Ortak’s store network, including leasehold interests and other associated assets.

“The joint administrators are continuing to trade the business in the coming weeks while discussions are advanced with a number of parties.

“There are high levels of existing stock, which will be heavily discounted and placed on sale via stores and the website from January 11.

“We continue to be grateful for the support of staff, customers and suppliers throughout this difficult time.”

Orkeny MSP Liam McArthur said he was deeply disappointed by the news, describing it as a “hammer blow” for staff.

He added: “My thoughts are very much with them at this time, particularly those based in Orkney.

“I will be pressing Ministers and the relevant agencies to do all they can to assist those directly affected, as well as looking at any steps that could usefully be taken to help reinforce a sector that is now critically important to the Orkney economy.

“Given the early expressions of interest and initial optimism that a buyer could be found to enable Ortak to continue as a functioning business, the sense of shock at today’s news is all the more acute.

“This was an important business for our islands but also an iconic brand, and the loss at its demise will be felt well beyond Orkney and indeed Scotland.”

The company was launched in Kirkwall in the late 1960s with its designs influenced by the local landscape.

It quickly grew to become one of the major names in UK jewellery manufacturing and employed up to1 55 staff - including 44 in Orkney – at 15 stores.

Administrators shut three of these, leaving 115 workers still with jobs.

In a statement last March, Ortak said it had carried out an “exhaustive review of the business”, which had come under pressure from the recession and the rising cost of raw materials.

It said it hoped administration would provide breathing space to explore the sale of the business as a going concern.

Thousands of parties were made aware of Ortak’s availability, and two bids were made, but deemed not acceptable to the administrators.

The restructured company made profits of £250,000 between March and June after renegotiated rents with most landlords.

A number of celebrities have showcased the company’s produce, including Scots TV presenter Carol Smillie, Suzanne Shar, and Strictly Come Dancing’s Flavia Cacace.