Former Co-op staff axed as Vergo closes

Hundreds of former Co-op shop staff are being made redundant after Liverpool-based retail chain, Vergo, was forced to call in the administrators earlier last month.

The company took over the iconic Derry’s department store from the former Plymouth & South West Co-op in February 2009 and acquired four Homemaker stores in Devon and Cornwall from the society at the same time.

While no announcement has been made regarding the Homemaker outlets, the Derry’s store is among nine new Vergo businesses being closed in the next couple of weeks in addition to the former Lewis’s department store in Liverpool, the closure of which was outside the new crisis management plan.

And among the other eight stores already axed by administrators MCR are six businesses out of a portfolio of 11 acquired from East of England Co-operative last July.

The former East of England department stores at Clacton and Norwich are being closed together with home stores in Witham, Stowmarket and Dovercourt — plus a jewellery shop in Colchester.

MCR’s Sarah Bell said that, altogether, 335 workers would lose their jobs in the nine stores deemed to be losing money — with around 80 going at Derry’s alone.

Said Ms Bell: “Following a financial review of the business, it was apparent it could not continue to trade in the short term without implementing immediate cost saving measures. 

“Regrettably, this means that 335 positions have been made redundant, but there is an opportunity for interested parties to come forward and rescue the remaining business as a going concern.”

The administrators have been in regular dialogue with all stakeholders, including trade unions and local government authorities, to discuss the immediate prospects of Vergo and its employees.

An East of England Co-op spokeswoman said: “We are very disappointed to hear the news about Vergo. It demonstrates just how difficult the economic climate continues to be, especially in the retail sector. 

“We hope the administrators find other operators for all the stores involved and are able to provide ongoing employment for Vergo store staff.

“Vergo currently lease a number of premises in East Anglia from this society and if the administrators are unsuccessful in finding alternative operators for these stores, we will begin to look for other retail tenants for the properties in which we have an interest.”

Plymouth & South West Society retained the lease on the Derry’s building and sub-let the store to Vergo shortly before last year’s merger with the Co-operative Group.


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