Madilyn Jessup-Little have some Darrell Lea chocolate.
Madilyn Jessup-Little have some Darrell Lea chocolate. Renee Pilcher

Hope for sale of Darrell Lea

GYMPIE Darrell Lea agents Michael and Helen Holmes were yesterday hopeful of a quick sale of the embattled chocolate company after it was placed into voluntary administration on Tuesday.

The Holmes' Gympie Nextra newsagencies at Centro and Goldfields are two of Darrell Lea's 1800 retail outlets throughout Australia, New Zealand and the United States. The company also has 69 owned or licensed stores and employs about 700 people whose jobs are at risk if the administrators fail to find a buyer.

But things were looking promising yesterday for a quick sale, with several unsolicited approaches for the business.

Mr Holmes said the developments of the last two days had so far not impacted on his agency and that the administrators, PPB Advisory, had emailed him to let him know it was "business as usual".

With a major Father's Day promotion coming up however, Mr Holmes said he was hoping his supply of stock would not be affected before the company was bought out.

"We have got stock available at the moment," he said. "We get new stock every week and we are hoping that stock continues to come through as per normal."

The administrator of Darrell Lea is also hopeful of a quick sale.

Darrell Lea directors called the administrator in on Tuesday amid concerns about whether the company could meet its ongoing financial obligations.

PPB also said the business would continue operating as usual for the time being, with the owners providing some short-term financial support while the administrators tried to sell the company.

PPB's Mark Robinson said that sale process may be quicker than initially anticipated with approaches from Australia and overseas.

"I'm very confident that there are interested buyers, and I've already received a number of unsolicited responses due to the high media profile ... ," he said.

But he said a sale was no guarantee there will not be job losses.

"It's too early to tell. I've been in there for six or seven hours, obviously our focus is to save as many (jobs) as possible."

The Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union's Jennifer Dowell, who represents workers at the company's factory, says her members have been told the company only has enough money to remain open for about five weeks while administrators search for a potential buyer.

"I mean everybody's shocked, they're dreadfully upset. We had no prior warning whatsoever," she said.

 

Fast facts

  • Darrell Lea has 69 owned or licensed stores and its products are sold through 1800 other retail outlets.
  • Between its retail network and its factory in Sydney, the company employs about 700 people.
  • Darrell Lea has been selling sweets since 1927 and is still privately owned by the Lea family.
  • Harry Lea, born in 1876 in London, migrated to Australia in 1888, and started making confectionery in 1917 at the back of his Manly Corso fruit shop.
  • Lea started the first shop in New South Wales in 1927 in Sydney's Haymarket, being a combined milk bar and confectionery shop.
  • During the Depression in 1929, a shop became vacant in Pitt St, and in 1935 a factory was established.
Gympie Times


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