Huge job losses announced as division of Littlewoods hits the buffers
Littlewoods' owners the Barclay brothers have confirmed that the retailer is to close 126 Index outlets and sell the remaining 33 to catalogue rival Argos for£44 million. The axe is expected to fall on about 3,200 jobs at troubled Index, which Littlewoods chairman David Simons says has accumulated losses of more than£100 million. Index has been in the red for almost all of its 20-year history.

Half of the 66 standalone Index stores will shut in six months, with the rest being sold to Argos-parent GUS, which plans to convert them into its own brand. Argos is expected to retain about 800 of the 4,000 Index staff. Completion of the deal is expected by July and Argos says it expects to have converted all the stores within three months of an agreement. Argos would also acquire the Index brand.

A further 93 Index stores trading from Littlewoods sites will close. The retailer has confirmed that 350 jobs at a Midlands distribution centre and 170 jobs at head office jobs will go.

Fashion discounter Primark is one of five bidders rumoured to be interested in the 119-store Littlewoods chain, which has been put up for sale with a reported price tag of about£500 million.