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Harris Scarfe in voluntary administration

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Adelaide-founded retail chain Harris Scarfe, which employs around 1800 staff across more than 60 stores nationally, has been placed in voluntary administration.

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The business, founded in 1849, will continue to trade through Christmas despite administrators Deloitte Restructuring Services assessing its future options.

DRS partner Vaughan Strawbridge said the business turned over $380 million nationally and was “a longstanding retail institution”.

“We will be making every effort to secure a future for the business and intend to commence an immediate sale of business process,” he said.

Gift cards and lay-by deposits will be honoured in the meantime, with Deloitte hopeful of preserving as many jobs as possible in an impending sale.

The company previously faced closure in 2001, and has had several changes of ownership in recent years.

Just last month, it was bought by Allegro Funds as part of its buyout of the general merchandise division of Greenlit Brands.

Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association secretary Josh Peak said the union was “deeply disappointed to hear that South Australia’s oldest retail chain [had] been placed into voluntary administration after 170 years of business”.

“With Christmas just around the corner, the SDA’s immediate concern is for the 1800-plus workers across Australia… it’s a kick in the guts to workers only days away from Christmas,” he said.

“They have been left in a state of limbo as a result of this decision.”

He said the union’s “main priority is to secure all entitlements for all workers”.

“This announcement comes off the back of some of the worst retail figures in Australia in 30 years,” he said.

The [Federal] Government must take action and ensure our local retail sector has a viable future for many years to come.”

He also called for an immediate investigation “into the role private equity firms are playing in the retail sector in Australia”.

“Only two weeks ago, the new owner informed staff they are the most recognised and awarded turnaround team in Australia’ and now just weeks later, this has happened,” he said.

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