70 job losses as big firm goes into administration

Discover Leisure, Coppull
Discover Leisure, Coppull

Seventy people have lost their jobs after a well known Chorley employer went into administration.

Workers at Discover Leisure caravan retailer in Coppull were told they were likely to be made redundant on Friday, after the firm announced it was closing the site.

On Monday, 70 out of the 76 workers were told they were being let go.

KPMG have been appointed as administrators for Discover Leisure Plc and its trading subsidiary Signlease Ltd.

They say they’re seeking a sale of the business but have closed it in the short term whilst they pursue offers.

Shocked staff were seen leaving the centre with redundancy notices in white envelopes on Monday.

One worker told the Guardian he knew things had been bad for a number of years but said nobody realised the true extent.

Administrators were inside the Chapel Lane building on Monday morning, and a sign on the door said the site was shut.

Discover Leisure had its North West head office at Coppull, which it acquired in a £20m takeover of rival Barrons Holdings in 2007.

Coppull councillor Matthew Crow said: “It’s terribly regrettable that the Chorley site has had to close because of the economic circumstances.

“I really feel for the staff and their families; it’s an awful time to be made redundant.

“These are local residents and friends of ours who are suffering through no fault of their own, and we must do our best to ensure that every opportunity is given to help them in these worrying times.

“It will also impact on businesses which supplied to the firm, so it affects a much wider circle than the workers.”

He added: “Everybody knows how big the business is in Coppull, and it’s probably the village’s biggest employer.

“Everyone’s talking about the closure and how Coppull has lost one its attractions. Discover Leisure used to bring people to Chorley.”

Fellow Coppull councillor Ken Ball said: “This firm has been in Coppull for more than 30 years, and it’s been very well respected.

“I think this has been on the cards for about three years now, but it’s still very sad.

“Discover employed a lot of people from Coppull and Chorley, so a big business like this closing down is the last thing we want.”

The company has suffered during the economic downturn and even suspended its shares.

Administrators Mark Firmin and Paul Flint have been appointed from the firm KPMG.

Mr Firmin, KPMG’s Northern head of restructuring, said: “Discover has faced a difficult market over an extended period of time, with persistently depressed consumer demand for high value discretionary items in particular.

“Whilst it is regrettable that we have had to close the dealerships over the weekend, we are working towards a solution to rescue some or all of the business.”

The directors recently sought investment in an attempt to keep the business trading, but their efforts proved unsuccessful.

The firm, which also sells caravans, motorhomes, tents and leisure vehicles parts, shut 11 of its trading sites in 2009 following a restructure of the business.

Discover employed 260 people across six sites in the north of England; 240 have now been made redundant.

A spokesman said the remaining 20 staff members are working with the administrators.

The sign on the centre’s door in Coppull added that customers who have already paid for caravans have been informed of the closure, and a hotline phone number has been released for people with ongoing orders.

The spokesman added that the company’s priority is to reassure customers of the situation over their property, where caravans are being serviced.