Retailers will attempt to replace lost Christmas savings
Retailers are set to back a single pan-industry goodwill scheme for the estimated 100,000 families that lost Christmas savings due to the collapse of hamper firm Farepak.

The news came as trade and industry secretary Alistair Darling revealed that his department's Companies Investigations Branch was probing the firm, which went into administration on October 13.

A spokesman for the British Retail Consortium - which is coordinating the retail industry's response to the Farepak collapse - told Retail Week: 'We will probably have just one goodwill scheme that is backed by the industry, rather than individual schemes run by different retailers.'

He added that, although no firm commitments had been made following last weekend's BRC meeting with consumer minister Ian McCartney, 'most retailers will contribute something'.

The BRC is due to meet again this week with BDO Stoy Hayward - the administrator of Farepak's parent firm European Home Retail. Further details of the goodwill scheme are expected after this meeting.

It is hoped that BDO Stoy Hayward will be able to provide the BRC with a list of precisely how many families have been affected by the Farepak collapse and how much money they lost. Some reports have suggested this latter figure could be as high as£20 million.

Speaking yesterday at a House of Commons trade and industry select committee hearing, Darling said: 'Clearly there is concern because so many people have been affected -Something has gone very wrong. It's tragic for the families concerned.'

A spokeswoman for the DTI said: 'We are concerned that large numbers of people saved a lot of money that just seems to have gone.'

She added that, at present, there was no suspicion that 'anyone has done anything wrong', although were this found to be the case then 'criminal convictions' could follow.