Festive joy for workers as almost 500 jobs saved at Bradford bakers Sparks and Barratts shoe shops

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Barratts HQ in Apperley Bridge Barratts HQ in Apperley Bridge

More than 300 jobs have been saved at an historic Bradford bakery business.

Sparks Confectioners, in Hockney Road, off Thornton Road, had been threatened with closure.

But a new deal, securing the business as a going concern, has brought Christmas cheer to 230 full-time employees, along with 110 agency staff who regularly work for the business.

The business and assets of the Sparks business have been bought from administrators at Grant Thornton by Chilled Bakery Products, owned by Leeds-based Country Style Foods, which has a £95 million turnover and five large industrial sites specialising in high volume production of bakery goods.

Sparks, which specialises in cakes and pastries for a number of high street retailers, is marking its centenary this year.

Its parent The Cotswold Food Partnership called in Joe McLean and Chris Petts from Grant Thornton due to a lack of working capital which damaged its trading capabilities.

Joint administrator Joe Mclean said the business, which became insolvent on December 13, would definitely have been forced to close without the deal.

Sparks was sold through a ‘pre-pack’ sale through which a company is put into administration and its business or assets, or both, immediately sold under a sale which was arranged before the administrator was appointed.

Mr McLean said: “The business makes cakes and pastries for key high street retailers, but it had been experiencing difficulty for several months. It became clear that the customers may not be able to receive their Christmas-related produce on time.

“But the sale to Chilled Bakery Products ensured supply was maintained and meant that those high street retailers had no reason not to pay the money they owed.

“Trading the business in administration was also not an option because there was no funding. Without the pre-packaged sale, the company would have been forced to close.”

Mr McLean said the new owners would focus Sparks operations at its 25,000 sq ft Hockney Road bakery where it makes a range of products for national distribution.

Starting in 1913 with one shop in Bradford, Sparks Confectioners grew to become one of Bradford’s leading employers in its field.

The acquisition of Sparks is the second rescue deal by Country Style Foods in the past four months. In August, it bought the assets of pie-maker Pooles of Wigan, previously owned by Bradford-born Wigan Athletic chairman Dave Whelan.

  • There was also a festive lift for more than 150 staff at failed Bradford-based shoe retailer Barratts after 14 shops were bought by York-based high street chain Pavers, which is was also looking at acquiring another five to ten Barratt stores. Barratts entered administration last month with 75 stores and 23 concessions across the UK and Ireland. Pavers managing director Stuart Paver said he was happy to be able to secure the future of more than 150 Barratts employees.

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