Essex: Jobs To Go At Clinton HQ

66 people will lose their jobs in the next few days at the head office of Clinton Cards in Loughton, administrators have announced.

The company, the UK's biggest specialist cards retailer, collapsed into administration earlier this month after failing to find a buyer for all or parts of the business.

At the same time, the first 44 stores out of some 350 lined up for closure will shut before the end of May, administrator Zolfo Cooper said, including 25 Birthdays and 19 Clinton Cards stores, although no Essex closures have been announced.

Further store closures across the remaining Birthdays estate and certain Clinton Cards traded stores are expected in the coming weeks, although Zolfo emphasised there was no further information at this time.

The ailing high street retailer, which had 784 stores and employed more than 8,000 staff in total, collapsed into administration after its biggest supplier American Greetings called in a £35 million debt.

There have been reports that WHSmith, which bought the online personalised greetings card brand Funky Pigeon in 2010, is interested in buying up to 350 stores.

Card Factory, Clinton's biggest competitor with 596 stores, is also thought to have approached administrators.

Clinton has suffered dire trading in recent months as it comes up against stiff competition from supermarkets and online retailers such as Funky Pigeon and Moonpig.

The group recorded a pre-tax loss of £3.7 million in the 26 weeks to January 29, compared with a profit of £11.7 million in the previous year, and warned that the second half of the year would be below expectations.

The group was the UK's largest specialist retailer of greetings cards and was founded by current chairman Don Lewin in Epping in 1968.