US card & gift giant American Greetings is to be investigated by the Office of Fair Trading over the acquisition of Clintons Cards, Retail Gazette understands.
In May, Clintons largest supplier American Greetings purchased £35 million worth of loans owed by Clintons from the retailer’s lenders Barclays Bank and Royal Bank of Scotland and enforced the loan against the troubled retailer, forcing it into administration.
Established in 1968, the retailer made accumulated losses in excess of £130 million since 2004, leaving it unable to fund and deliver its turnaround strategy as it battled to compete with online greetings cards retailers such as Moonpig.
Administrators Zolfo Cooper had hoped to find buyers for the company during the initial store closure program though last week the firm admitted that the closures were in their final stages with remaining stores due to cease trading by the end of this month .
It is expected that the investigation will examine Lakeshore Lendings, a subsidiary of American Greetings Corporation which acquired 397 stores in June.
A spokesperson for the OFT told Retail Gazette the investigation will look into whether the deal would be better completed as a merger, adding that relevant parties have been offered what is known as ‘invitation to comment’.
“We have reached no formal decision on this though we are going to do an investigation,” the spokesperson added.
“There is a possibility that this may lead to a substantial lessening of competition and a disproportionate level of ownership of a particular market is not in the interests of consumers.”