STAFF at Littlewoods in Chester are facing an uncertain future after the group was acquired by Associated British Foods (ABF).
The £409 million deal will see ABF acquire all 120 Littlewoods stores in the UK in order to extend its Primark budget clothing business but it has only committed to retaining some of the stores for retail space.
An ABF spokesman said: 'Primark will keep about 40% of the overall Littlewoods floor space, which amounts to just less than 40% of stores. But we cannot disclose at the moment which of them will be included in that.'
They added that a decision is expected in the next few months on which stores they will retain.
In the meantime, Littlewoods have informed their staff that the 120 sites nationwide will continue to trade under the Liverpool-based company's name until March 2006 and that the staff will continue to be employed by Littlewoods.
'This is becoming an increasingly complicated situation and we just need to sort out who is ultimately responsible for Little-woods employees and their rights,' said John Gorle, national officer with the shop workers' union Usdaw. 'At least now we have until March next year to resolve these issues.
'We have a long-standing and very positive relationship with Littlewoods, who have been traditionally good employers, so we are hopeful we can get the information quickly and pass it onto our members.
'The reality is that at the heart of this sale are 2,700 staff who have done a brilliant job keeping the Littlewoods name alive for so long and we want to make sure their rights, and pensions they have paid into in good faith over a long period, are fully protected.
'This is a very difficult and unsettling time for them, but our members can rest assured that when we know something so will they.'