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Comet Collapse: Gift Vouchers Suspended

(c) Sky News 2012

Gift vouchers for stricken electrical retailer Comet have been suspended, the chain's administrator has confirmed.

Deloitte, which was appointed on Friday, has launched an "urgent" search for a buyer to protect some 6,600 jobs at the 236-outlet chain.

But, as a consequence, of administration gift vouchers have been suspended even though all Comet stores remain open and the group's staff will continue to be paid.

A spokesman for Deloitte said: "We are assessing the position with regard to gift vouchers, to establish whether it is possible for the company to accept them in future.

"But in the meantime stores have been instructed not to accept payment by means other than credit card or cash.

"If ultimately it is not possible for customers to redeem gift cards at Comet, then they will have an unsecured claim against the company, and the administrators will be pleased to provide the appropriate forms for customers to make such a claim if and when that eventuality arises."

The collapse of Comet marks one of the biggest high street casualties since the demise of Woolworths (Xetra: 81350.DE - news) in 2008 and comes a month after the failure of JJB Sports.

Neville Kahn, joint administrator and restructuring services partner at Deloitte, said on appointment: "Our immediate priorities are to stabilise the business, fully assess its financial position, and begin an urgent process to seek a suitable buyer which would also preserve jobs.

"We appreciate the co-operation and support from the management, staff, customers, landlords and suppliers at what is clearly a very difficult time."

Deloitte said Comet had been hit by weak high street trading conditions, competition from online rivals and being unable to secure the trade credit insurance needed to safeguard suppliers.

"The inability to obtain supplier credit for the peak Christmas trading period means that the company had no realistic prospect of raising further capital to build up sufficient stock to allow it to continue trading," Deloitte added.

In particular, it was knocked by the lack of first-time home buyers, which had been key customers for Comet.

Its (Euronext: ALITS.NX - news) administration comes just months after Comet was taken over by investment firm OpCapita, which bought the chain in February.

The UK's high street electrical market has come under huge pressure as cash-strapped shoppers put off purchases of big-ticket items such as TVs (Taiwan OTC: 8264.TWO - news) and large appliances, as online rivals take a bigger slice of the sector.

The spokesman said extended warranties previously purchased remain unaffected by the administration and remain valid.

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