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Comet train set for SMASH, staff can only hope to be in right carriage

Inability to fill Santa's sack may mean sackings

Penniless Comet's network of UK stores is on the brink of break up as staff enter a "collective consultation" over potential redundancies.

In a letter to the electrical chain's workers, administrator Deloitte warned that if it is unable to sell the business as a going concern, it will be forced to flog bits and pieces to interested parties.

"This [consultation] intended to offer a means to provide information about the company's plans for the future and the representatives of the employees to raise questions, and air their view on any proposals, including any redundancies or measures affecting employees whose employment may transfer to any potential buyer of all or part of the Comet business," the letter stated.

As revealed yesterday, rivals including Dixons Retail, Maplin and a number of online electronics traders are in talks with Deloitte to take on elements of the operation. Nearly a fortnight after Deloitte was appointed as an administrative receiver, the 236 stores continue to be open for business.

A week ago 330 of its roughly 6,600 employees were made redundant. At the time, Deloitte said it did not plan to shutter any outlets nor lay off additional workers.

This week's letter from Deloitte and seen by the Daily Telegraph stated administrators will "listen carefully to feedback" from employee representatives before making decisions.

Comet's chief operating officer Carl Cowling is one of a number of senior folk, presumably among the 330 axed staffers, who has exited the business. He emailed staff claiming the company has learnt to deal with a lower amount of stock, built a strong team and grown sales.

"Many of you have put your hearts and souls in the Comet turnaround and it saddens me that it came to this," he wrote.

Venture capitalist OpCapita took over Comet last year and was handed a £50m dowry by previous owner Kesa Electrical, now branded The Darty Group. Comet was trading without credit insurance, forcing it to pay suppliers upfront for goods.

Ahead of peak Christmas trading Comet tried to restock the shelves but could not overcome cash-flow difficulties. ®

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