As we wave Comet off into retail heaven, here’s a look at the timeline for the chain of electrical stores:
Founded: 1933 as Comet Battery Stores.
The Sixties: The Resale Prices Act was passed in 1964, and by 1968 Comet had opened its first out-of-town store in Hull.
The Seventies: Comet continued to grow and went public in 1972.
The Eighties: The mergers and buyouts begin. In 1984, Harris Queensway and the Kingfisher Group/Woolworths competed to buy the chain, with Kingfisher the eventual winner. In 1989, the Kingfisher Group announced a takeover bid for Dixons, but it was blocked by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission in 1990.
The Nineties: Comet traded at a loss for a period, analysts began to declare doubt about the firm, and competitor Dixons held three times more marketshare. Kingfisher bought out electrical retailer Norweb and merged it with Comet, closing a number of stores and resulting in 1,200 redundancies. Kingfisher tried to merge with Asda in 1999, but was beaten to it by Wal-Mart.
The Noughties: In 2000, clearly not satisfied with Comet’s performance, Kingfisher ‘demerged’ Comet and sister electrical stores into a new group called KESA, away from Woolworths and Superdrug. Life became harder yet for Comet when online stores started to see big sales. 115 of its stores were due rent review in 2003-4, with a big bill attached, and by 2005 Comet was posting a significant loss of £3.3 million for its second quarter.
April 2010: Best Buy arrived, guns blazing for the UK retail market. While it didn’t stick around much beyond a year, it still placed serious pressure on Comet.
June 2011: Comet posted a loss for the year of £8.9 million.
September 2011: KESA sold Comet to investment firm OpCapita for a nominal £2.
November 2012: Comet went into administration. Within the first few weeks, stores were closed and jobs at head office were slashed. Hundreds of store employees were made redundant. Administrator Deloitte warned that it might have to break up the chain into smaller parts to sell on.
December 2012: Rumours emerge that a business angel might buy up Comet stores and that there’s interest in the Comet website. But ultimately, any bid to save the chain fails, and all remaining Comet stores close on December 18th.
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