Dick Smith to close ACT stores within eight weeks

 Almost 60 Canberrans will lose their jobs when Dick Smith closes its six ACT stores within the next eight weeks.

The closure of Dick Smith's 301 stores in Australia and 62 in New Zealand was announced on Thursday after receivers Ferrier Hodgson failed to find a buyer for the electronic chain which went into receivership in January with reported debts of $400 million.

Dick Smith customer Philippa Simpson outside the Majura Park store shortly after the chain's closures were announced on ...
Dick Smith customer Philippa Simpson outside the Majura Park store shortly after the chain's closures were announced on Thursday. Photo: Melissa Adams.

The collapse of the brand will put 2890 people out of jobs in Australia and New Zealand.

Staff at several Dick Smith stores in Canberra said they had been instructed not to speak to media, but revealed they'd only been told of the closures shortly before it was revealed to the public.

In January, a Dick Smith spokesman said the company employed 58 people across six stores in the ACT, when the company announced the closure of its branches in David Jones stores.

Shop Distributive and Allied Employees' Association ACT/NSW secretary Bernie Smith said some stores could close earlier with the entire chain to be wrapped up within eight weeks leaving staff little time frame to find permanent jobs elsewhere.

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"We're very disappointed, particularly as employees were major creditors, we had someone on the creditors committee and we didn't receive any advance notice," he said.

"The employees that I've spoken to are really quite devastated and trying to take it all in, while its encouraging the receivers say all entitlements will be paid, we'll make sure that is the case."

Sale signs plaster the windows of the Majura Park store.
Sale signs plaster the windows of the Majura Park store. Photo: Melissa Adams.

A customer at Dick Smith's Majura Park store, Philippa Simpson, said she was surprised the stores were closing, after dropping into the centre to buy walkie-talkies for work.

"What do we have left now? It's only really JB Hi-Fi and I think it was good that we had the diversity of competitors," she said.

Long-time Dick Smith customer Brice Hooper said he was saddened by the demise of the Australian brand.
Long-time Dick Smith customer Brice Hooper said he was saddened by the demise of the Australian brand. Photo: Melissa Adams.

"I came a couple of years ago to buy a laptop and I did do the shop around … it's good to have those options … it's always a shame to see things shut.

"All the staff seemed really nice and helpful."

Long-time Dick Smith customer Brice Hooper said he was sad to see the demise of another Australian company.

"It is very much a trend mainly because we can't compete with a lot of what gets produced overseas, we do price ourselves out of the market in some ways," he said.

Mr Hooper said he had shopped at Dick Smith since his 20s in the chain's early days and liked it for its wide range and value for money.

"I've shopped more in Dick Smith stores, even down to little electronics stuff for my kids, than any other shop," he said.

"I'm not too sure where else I can go… they had a little bit of everything which was great."

Ferrier Hodgson receiver James Stewart said despite a significant number of expressions of interest from local and overseas parties, the sale process had not resulted in any acceptable offers.

"The offers were either significantly below liquidation values or highly conditional or both," Mr Stewart said.

Mr Smith said the union had been kept in the dark over the details.

"We'd like to investigate a bit more closely what some of the offers and alternatives were… we're disappointed that the business hasn't been sold as a going concern," he said.

The receivers said Australian staff could expect to be paid in full and "outplacement support" would be provided for staff, but Bernie Smith said the details were yet to be revealed.

The chain raised the ire of many customers, after it went into administration in January, when it was revealed gift vouchers would not be honoured and deposits would not be refunded.

ACT shopfronts and the online store appeared to be operating as normal after Thursday's announcement, but store windows continued to be plastered with sale signs.

The company's founder entrepreneur Dick Smith accused the private equity group that listed the chain in a $520 million public float of "destroying" the business.

He said on Thursday he had no interest in buying back the rights to the 'Dick Smith' name or any part of the troubled business.