EXCLUSIVE - The future of discount giant Hooty’s is in doubt as it emerged takeover talks are being held.
Workers at the main site in Willenhall and its Kidderminster store claim they have been told the stores will shut early next year.
Home store The Range is in negotiations about taking over the Willenhall site in Longacres Industrial Estate, Rose Hill, where around 100 workers are based.
They say existing staff would transfer to their business if the takeover goes ahead.
The future of the £500,000 store in Kidderminster, which opened its doors in 2010, creating 50 jobs, remains unclear.
It is also not known if the Hooty’s shop in Erdington, Birmingham, which opened in September creating 20 jobs, would be affected.
The Range has said it is only dealing with a takeover of the Willenhall store.
It comes just weeks after the Willenhall building was given permission to extend its opening hours. The well-known store was founded in 1963 by the family of Steve Smith, who sold the business in 1988 and went on to set up Poundland in 1990 before selling that for £50m in 2002.
The announcement has led to uncertainty among staff. One worker said staff were called into a meeting and told the store was being taken over by The Range. “They said it would happen in January and that they couldn’t guarantee our jobs under the new owner,” the worker said.
“We’ve been told there’s going to be a massive refurb but no one can tell us what’s happening, whether the new owner will be bringing his own people or not. The boss told us that the Range tried to buy him out three years ago but he refused. Now he says they’ve made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.”
The Range was founded by Plymouth-based entrepreneur Chris Dawson. He started the business in 1980 as an open-air market trader and saved up enough money to launch a superstore.
It now employs more than 6,500 people throughout the UK.
A statement from The Range said: “Further to an announcement made to store staff yesterday we can confirm that CDS (Superstores International) Ltd who trade as The Range from over 85 locations throughout the UK are in negotiations to acquire the property presently occupied by Hooty’s Supplies (Wholesale) Ltd at Longacre Industrial Estate Willenhall. If the site is successfully acquired then CDS plans a major facelift in 2014 and the current store will be transformed into a modern store in The Range’s trading style.
“There will remain a familiar look about the business in that, as part of the arrangement, it is proposed that the existing staff will transfer to The Range.”
The Express & Star has made repeated attempts to contact bosses at Hooty’s. They refused to comment and would only refer inquiries to the statement from The Range. They would not give any details on the futures of the Kidderminster or Birmingham stores.