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Trading continues after Owen Owen collapse

Concessionaires in department store Lewis's in Liverpool claim to have lost two months of takings but are staying with the store, whose parent company Owen Owen went into administration last week.

Restructuring firm Hilco is operating the company for administrators Kroll. It is understood that Hilco has looked at the business, but it would not comment on whether it would buy it.

Brands with concessions in the store said they had lost their takings for January and February but were remaining open after being guaranteed payment from March 1 onwards.

One concessionaire said: "We are clearly not happy about it but are staying on because the administrators have guaranteed payments."

As Drapers went to press, Lewis's was poised to go on Sale with its own-bought product.

A spokesman for Kroll said the store was continuing to trade and it had guaranteed that ongoing payments for the period covered by the administration would be made. He added that there had been "a strong level of interest" in the business, and that so far no redundancies had been made among Lewis's 250 staff. Although some sources suggested a property purchase was most likely, the administrators are keeping all options open.

Owen Owen, which also owns Esslemont & Macintosh in Aberdeen, Joplings in Sunderland and Robb's of Hexham in Northumberland, went into administration last week despite the £7.7 million sale of the freehold of Robb's, which completed in August 2006. Ex-owner David Thompson had said the sale would reap enough cash to save the firm.

It is understood that Lewis's was making a £1m annual loss after a decline in footfall due to building work in Liverpool city centre, but that the other stores were profitable. Thompson was not available for comment.

One department store contact told Drapers that the rents on the three leasehold stores, understood to be about £1m in Liverpool, £450,000 in Hexham and £290,000 in Aberdeen, meant it would be difficult for any new owner to build a profitable retail business.

The Lewis's building, which has a sales area of 150,000sq ft, is owned by property developers Capital & Counties, which recently bought the main retail area of Covent Garden in London for £421m.

OWEN OWEN TIMELINE

1868: Owen Owen founded

1994: Sir Philip Green buys 13-store Owen Owen

1996: Green sells eight Owen Owen stores to Allders for £23.6 million

2002: Green closes Owen Owen's Manchester store

Dec 2004: Former MK One finance director David Thompson buys Green's 80% stake in Owen Owen, plus 10% from Elaine MacPherson, to add to his own 10%

Jan 2005: Owen Owen buys Joplings in Sunderland and Robb's of Hexham for £8m

July 2005: Buys Esslemont & Macintosh

Aug 2006: Sells freehold of Robb's for £7.7m.

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