Thousands of employees at collapsed retailer Peacocks are facing further uncertainty after it was reported that only one company remains in the race to salvage the firm.
The Birmingham Post reported last month that more than 500 jobs in the West Midlands were put under threat after Peacock Group collapsed under a debt mountain – the biggest retail failure since Woolworths.
Peacocks has 563 stores and 48 concessions across the UK, employing some 7,500 people, and Indian textile and clothing giant S Kumars Nationwide (SKNL) is understood to be the only remaining suitor for the business after interest from bid rivals Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Pakistani clothing giant Alshair Fiyaz faded, reports in The Times claim.
Fashion chain Bonmarche, which was part of the Peacock Group, was sold last month in a deal that will lead to 1,400 job losses and 160 store closures. Private equity firm Sun European Partners bought 230 stores and will continue to employ 2,400 staff.
A spokesman for administrator KPMG declined to comment.
KPMG held more than 100 conversations with potential buyers for the clothing retailer in the 48 hours after it collapsed.
But the “huge interest” appears to have dwindled as SKNL has emerged as the frontrunner to save the business.
SKNL, which turned over £667 million last year, bought Hartmarx Corporation, an occasional tailor to President Barack Obama, in partnership with British investment firm Emerisque Brands.
Elsewhere, it has been reported that retailers including Poundland and Tesco are eyeing up parts of the store portfolio in the event a buyer for all or part of the struggling chain is not found.
KPMG has already announced 249 redundancies from Peacocks head office in Cardiff.
Peacocks reported strong trading over the Christmas period, with like-for-like sales up 17%, helped by a collaboration with singer-turned-fashion designer Pearl Lowe.
But the company, owned by hedge funds Och-Ziff and Perry Capital, has suffered as its profit margins came under pressure from the frenzy of discounts on the high street being offered by retailers desperate to drum up trade. The retailer was also weighed down by £750 million of borrowings.
Peacocks can trace its history back to Warrington, in Cheshire, in 1884 when Albert Frank Peacock founded Peacock’s Penny Bazaar. In 1940, his son Harold moved the business to its current base in Cardiff.
The business developed and expanded in the 1990s, floating on the London Stock Exchange in 1999. The Peacock Group acquired low-cost retailer Bonmarche in 2002.
The company delisted from the London Stock Exchange to become a privately-owned business once again in 2006 and broke the 500 stores mark in 2008.