Time closes stores but keeps running

Time Computers closes 78 retail outlets 'for now' because of issues with its bankers, but its mail order business continues

Amid fierce speculation about the future of the company, Time Computers closed all of its 78 Computer Shop stores on Monday.

As staff talked of closed production lines and unfilled orders, and complained of being kept in the dark over company plans, managers tried to put a brave face on the situation, insisting that the store closures were only a temporary measure.

"We intend to carry on in business," said Richard Harris, the head of human resources of Time Computers' parent company company, Granville Technology Group. "We have had to close the stores because of issues with the bank".

Last Friday the company confirmed that HSBC has withdrawn credit handling facilities after the company defaulted on a loan. This has forced the closure of the stores, as they can't process credit card payments.

Harris maintained that Granville was working with the bank to sort out the problem. These issues have meant that staff have been paid late two months running.

Harris said that the main parts of mail-order business were "operating normally" but that some production lines had been closed down on a temporary basis. He insisted that there had been no mass layoffs and that during this period staff were being asked to take paid holiday.

"The business is going to carry on, the business has a future," vowed Harris. "I am trying to be as upbeat as possible."

But yesterday’s ZDNet UK story about problems at Time prompted staff to take issue with Harris and the company. Many complained about not being informed of events but Harris said that all staff were being informed of the situation.

Part of the problem, according to staff, is a shortage of components as suppliers have become reluctant to supply the company. However, manufacturing is carried out for Granville Technology by VMT which, according to Harris, is "a completely separate company".

A union source said that he has been "concerned" about the complex network of companies and brands that compose Granville, VMT, Time, Tiny and The Computer Store.