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Usdaw to raise concerns about Life & Style with Government

Shopworkers union Usdaw is writing to the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills to detail concerns over the running of fashion and homewares chain Life & Style and its predecessor company Ethel Austin.

The 91-store Life & Style chain went into administration earlier this month amid speculation that owner Elaine McPherson could be involved in a deal to take the business out of administration for a third time.

The former MK One chief executive first acquired Ethel Austin’s debt a month before the company went into administration in April 2008 and bought both Ethel Austin and sister company Au Naturale out of administration a month later. By February 2010 both companies were back in administration before McPherson bought resurrected Ethel Austin for a second time in May 2010 and rebranded it Life & Style.

The union said that it is extremely concerned at the prospect of McPherson being permitted to run the company again and has also written to Life & Style’s administrator to request any prospective purchaser demonstrates an ability to run the business effectively and to provide a long-term future.

John Gorle, Usdaw national officer, said: “The staff have been treated in a truly appalling and cavalier fashion. Usdaw has always tried to resolve and deal with issues through dialogue and in private, but even this has proved an increasingly difficult and fruitless task.

“Reports that Ms McPherson may continue to be involved with the business really are the last straw and we can no longer remain silent on the way this company has been operating.”

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