Future still uncertain for High Street store

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A LEVEN High Street store which has struggled during the recession is in the hands of receivers yet again.

However, although 22 Ethel Austin stores are to be closed across the UK, administrators RSM Tenon have announced the Leven shop will continue to trade until a buyer is hopefully found.

That news marks a welcome reprieve – albeit temporarily – for the eight members of staff currently still employed at the store, which is run by Life and Style Retail Ltd.

Joint administrator Simon Bonney said: “RSM Tenon has now completed our initial review of the Life & Style business.

“Unfortunately, as part of our efforts to safeguard the health of the overall business, we had no alternative but to close 22 shops and make 274 people redundant.

“We are now in early discussions with a number of parties in relation to the disposal of all or parts of the business as a going concern.”

Ethel Austin, which took over the former Woolworths store in 2009, was spared from the chop when the firm went bust last year.

The troubled clothing and homeware firm - which has a sister company Au Naturale - crashed into administration in February 2010 with debts standing at more than £59 million, despite a restructuring effort two years earlier.

The profitable parts of the business were bought back by Ethel Austin’s former chief executive Elaine McPherson and around 90 stores across the UK were kept in operation under the new management title Life and Style Retail Ltd.

Stores in Glenrothes and Kirkcaldy were axed as a result, but the Leven store was spared.

The shop formerly employed 13 members of staff.