Property tycoon Clive Coombes has set out his vision to rebuild Comet if he pulls off a last-gasp deal to save the electricals retailer.
Coombes told Retail Week he would put Comet’s emphasis on service, launch an own-brand line and lengthen warranties to reassure shoppers about their purchases.
The Southampton-based entrepreneur is scheduled to meet Comet administrator Deloitte on Friday in an attempt to thrash out a deal to save a tranche of the 195 stores still open. Deloitte has set a deadline of December 18 for all the stores to close.
Coombes said that he may have to revise his original ambition of taking control of 180 stores because some will have closed by the time any deal would be done.
He said: “There’s a lot of negotiations to go and a lot of information we have to receive. We are hopeful we can take as many stores as possible. We want to cut the distribution back, there are overheads you just do not want.”
Coombes said he has completed a number of smaller turnarounds in the electricals sector. “The investors are quite supportive behind [my plan,” he said.
He added: “When you are dealing with receivers you do not know how it’s going to go. We are pretty confident in the electricals market. There’s no competition out there in terms of own-brand and if you offer a good brand and a five-year warranty then hopefully people will come to you.
“The service level has go to go up. In this economic climate we are in at the moment service levels have to be high or people will not come back again.”
Coombes said he would attempt to maintain Comet as a nationwide chain and re-open some stores already closed.
John Roberts, chief executive and founder of Appliances Online, which is vying to buy the Comet brand and website, believed no buyer would emerge to save Comet’s bricks-and-mortar business. He said: “It is still our view that it is very unlikely that a buyer will be found with the funds, credibility and required infrastructure to continue the brand.
“The home delivery network required, TUPE issues from administration and supplier support with associated credit insurance are only three of the huge practical obstacles to overcome if the business is to be operated on a slimmed down basis.
“One only has to reflect on how fast OpCapita burned through the dowry of £50m from Kesa to understand the risks involved.”