THE closure of JJB Sports in Rushmere Shopping Centre was described at Monday night’s borough council meeting as “a tragedy for all 26 staff who will lose their jobs, especially so close to Christmas”.
The closure is the result of JJB - Britain’s biggest sports retailer - collapsing into administration, with the loss of 2,200 jobs in 133 outlets.
The Wigan-based firm, which was worth more than £1bn at its zenith, succumbed after it failed to attract a buyer, even though there was reported to be interest from around 100 parties. The administrators KPMG only managed to sell 20 JJB stores, the brand and the website to its arch-rival Sports Direct for £24m, saving 550 jobs in the UK, including warehouse staff. The shops are expected to be rebranded as Sports Direct, and sadly Craigavon is not one of the 20.
Mayor Carla Lockhart said it was a sad end for a firm that had traded from Rushmere for many years. And Councillor Robert Smith commented it was particularly hard for the 26 staff to bear in the run-in to Christmas. “It’s a tough fact of retail life that buying trends are changing, and JJB is the latest victim,” he added.
Upper Bann MLA, John O’Dowd, described the news as a “major blow to the local economy”. He said, “It is sad and disappointing news first and foremost.
“Unfortunately this bad news is not surprising, and highlights the absolute need for politicians and political parties to seriously look at the state of local politics and the economy. Political leaders must take this news as a wake up call and put aside the ongoing political point scoring and conjured up squabbling, particularly within unionism.”
Mr O’Dowd continued, “If politicians don’t work for the community they represent this story will repeat itself.”