On November 21st, the only people who had heard of Omicron were those with a grasp of ancient history or even Latin.
Now the news, like the dominant Covid-19 variant itself, appears to be everywhere and multiplying.
As we write, the Chancellor has announced some support for companies in the leisure and hospitality sectors that appear to be administered through grants at local authority level but will become clearer in the next few days leading up to Christmas.
Which ironically should have been some of the busiest trading days of the year but due to a range of circumstances and events you’ve heard about, means that any support forthcoming will be welcomed.
But before we consider the future implications of today’s decisions and what January and the rest of 2022 might hold, we’re going to recap on the other business and insolvency stories that have happened in December.
Read on to find out.
One of the largest outside broadcast operators in the UK that filmed Euro 2020, Wimbledon and the Glastonbury Festival for ITV, Sky TV and the BBC went into insolvency earlier this month with the loss of 100 positions.
The business had taken out bounce back loans and other pandemic finance during the past 18 months and investigations are ongoing into allegations of fraud and staff working for the business while being furloughed. Debts are understood to be around £300 million from a range of asset-based lenders as well as other sources.
A spokesperson for the British Business Bank said: “We are currently investigating facilities granted to Arena through accredited lenders using the bank’s schemes, and expect lenders to work with the company’s administrators on recoveries.”
Social Energy Supply
Dual fuel energy renewable energy supplier Social Energy Supply which supplied 5,500 customers in Gloucester has gone into administration.
Like many others in the sector the company experienced significant financial challenges as a result of the recent material increases in wholesale gas prices. Ofgem is transferring customers to new suppliers.
A spokesperson said: “Social Energy Supply was founded on the principles of delivering 100 per cent renewable energy to customers while making bills more affordable.
“Regrettably however, the recent issues affecting the wider energy sector meant that the business was not able to secure sufficient funding to enable trading to continue.
The company was part of the wider Social Energy Group which supplies domestic, commercial and social housing customers with solar panels and battery storage and continues to trade. All staff have transferred to this group and remain employed.
Orbit Energy and Entice Energy
Two other energy suppliers have also closed this month. Orbit which supplied 65,000 customers and Entice which had 5,400.
Ofgem have already transferred their customers to Scottish Power but the total number of UK suppliers which have failed this year is now 24 covering almost 4 million customers.
A spokesperson for Orbit Energy blamed its collapse on the government’s energy price cap, which was designed to protect customers on standard variable tariffs from large or unfair energy bills.
They said: “Orbit was a well-run energy supplier that had always taken a prudent approach to buying energy from the wholesale energy markets so we could offer the best price possible. Sadly, the UK government and our regulator Ofgem expect us to sell energy at a price far lower than the cost to buy - which makes operating unsustainable.”
Both Orbit and Entice were warned by Ofgem last month that they could lose their supplier licences if they failed to pay back the money collected from their customer energy bills, which was earmarked to support small-scale renewable energy schemes such as rooftop solar installations.
Orbit owed over £450,000 from its customer energy bills to support the government’s feed-in tariff scheme while Entice owed the regulator £28,353 to help support small-scale renewables.
The owners of the Eastgate shopping centre in Basildon have gone into administration.
A spokesperson for InfraRed UK said that it was business as usual as the shopping centre, car park and shops remained open and continued to trade.
“The challenges to UK retail are well known and have been further accentuated by the impact of Covid-19 and the resulting national lockdowns which have ultimately driven the decision.”
InfraRed bought the shopping centre from British Land in 2014 for £88.6 million and was described at the time as a dominant town centre asset. Since then several high profile brands had abandoned the centre for various reasons including Debenhams, Next, Topshop, Build-A-Bear and H&M.
Lancashire stone and aggregate suppliers and hauliers J&J Ashcroft went into administration earlier this month.
Formed in 1935, the family business had hoped to sell the company as a going concern due to current directors having significant health issues but recent issues including the ongoing challenge of Covid-19 and problems recruiting sufficient HGV drivers combined to force the directors ultimate administration decision.
The business has ceased trading immediately with all staff employed by the company having been made redundant.
Bussins & Parkin
A 109-year-old kitchen retailer serving Suffolk has gone into liquidation.
A spokesperson said: “Closure during the pandemic hit us hard and when we couldn’t get the products, trade stopped.”
“Business had reached a point where it was making no profit. It’s been awful, we love the business and the customers and have an excellent staff but we have to draw the line somewhere and we couldn’t keep on trading while insolvent.”
High Street Group
Newcastle based property developers the High Street Group, who were building the tallest building in the city Hadrian’s Tower, have been placed into administration with debts estimated to between £75 million and £212 million.
As well as Hadrian’s Tower, they were working on other high profile developments in the city as well as other locations in Birmingham and the North West but had seen a reduction in institutional funding for many of its schemes during the pandemic.
Directors hope that by entering administration they will be able to repay investors as part of any rescue plan including the realisation of assets and a further review into the businesses and directors actions.
The Judge at the hearing said: “There is no doubt that this is an insolvent company and that rescuing the company as a going concern is not remotely likely here.”
MTA Personal Injury Solicitors
Previously a multi-million pound personal injury firm, Kent-based MTA Personal Injury Solicitors LLP have gone into administration.
Previously specialising in road traffic accidents and medical negligence claims, the business found its profit margins severely tightened by reduced fixed fees, the abolition of the recovery of success fees and the Civil Liability Act stopping the recovery of costs for road traffic accidents for claims under £5,000.
The seven remaining employees have all been made redundant.
This follows several other large personal injury law specialists also going into administration last month such as Pure Legal and Hampson Hughes.
Ethical online grocer Farmdrop has gone into administration a week before Christmas affecting the orders of hundreds of customers who had ordered festive food including turkeys and geese.
Founded in 2012, the business specialised in responsibly sourced, homegrown and organic produce from independent producers and sold hundreds of different items to over 10,000 customers and expanded rapidly during the pandemic enjoying what it described as “unprecedented growth” but warned earlier this year that “the growth in orders and sales has not translated into profitability.”
Administrators will now deal with the claim of their customers and over 450 producers who may be owed money or produce.
The company had been looking to secure additional funding and support but a spokesperson confirmed that: “It has become apparent that we have exhausted all possible options and we will no longer be able to serve our cherished customers.”
A Leeds marketing agency with clients as well known as Decathlon, LNER and the Grand National appointed administrators and ceased trading.
An issued statement said: “The company traded as a full service creative agency and was well known locally for organising the popular Jurassic Trail in Leeds city centre which featured large scale animatronic dinosaurs and also an app and helped to support local businesses by driving footfall to the city centre.
“The business has been impacted by the pandemic and in particular the associated restrictions which significantly reduced revenue from experiential events for which the business had been well known in recent years.
“Despite a period of pre-appointment marketing, it was not possible to find a buyer for the business which ceased to trade on appointment with all 16 employees being made redundant.
“The assets of the business will be offered for sale including a number of large scale animatronic dinosaurs, which are expected to generate significant interest.”
Many business owners and directors might find themselves with more time on their hands than they planned for or wanted this Christmas period.
With unofficial and official restrictions on some businesses depending where in the UK they’re based they will have plenty of opportunities to think about the health of their company and what they can do to improve things while they still can.
This is where we can help.
We offer a free, initial consultation with an experienced, expert advisor which offers the owner or director the chance to be heard and explain, in detail, what the reality of their situation is.
Once they can see the full picture they can let them know exactly what options are available for them to help improve their situation if it’s at all possible.
Equally if things have gone too far in the other direction and there’s no reasonable hope for recovery, they will explain what they can do to efficiently close the business and take care of any outstanding debts.
Either of these scenarios could make 2022 a better year for any company that’s struggling right now but they can only happen if the people in charge take charge and get in touch.
We’ll spell out exactly what has changed and what this means for directors and business owners of companies regarding their commercial rents and how they can approach closing their business down.
When the bill was first announced in August 2018, the Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “We want the UK to be the best place in the world to do business and we have provided unprecedented support to businesses to help them through the pandemic.
“These new powers will curb those rogue directors who seek to avoid paying back their debts, including government loans provided to support businesses and save jobs. Government is committed to tackle those who seek to leave the British taxpayer out of pocket by abusing the covid financial support that has been so vital to businesses.
Stephen Pegge, Managing Director of UK Finance, said: “The ability to dissolve a company when necessary is a right reserved in legitimate circumstances where there are no outstanding creditors, however it can be open to abuse.
“The banking and finance industry therefore supports this legislation which will provide much needed powers to the Insolvency Service to help hold rogue directors to account by providing additional deterrents and easier enforcement of the rules.”
What does it do?
You can read the entirety of the law right here but the key measures that will affect the most companies are:
Company dissolution or striking off is a cheap, efficient and effective way of closing down a dormant business or one that has no outstanding debt.
This hasn’t stopped unscrupulous directors from trying to close their company through this method and avoid their legal responsibilities.
The Insolvency Service is particularly keen to clamp down on so-called phoenix companies - which are businesses that dissolve to escape liabilities and debts before reforming as a new company, debt free, often with the same location, assets and directors.
The new bill allows investigations of directors of dissolved companies sometimes going back over a period of years to determine whether they were eligible to dissolve the company in the first place and if they discharged their legal duties as directors at the time.
As a result of the expected increase in investigations, it follows that there will be more examples of bad behaviour uncovered by the Insolvency Service which will be punished through a range of sanctions including fines and the potential to be disqualified from serving as a director for a period of up to 15 years for the most egregious examples.
A potentially worse sanction for directors is also included in the new law. This is the new ability for a director of an improperly dissolved business to have the outstanding company debt personally assigned to them to repay from their own funds.
Rent - deal or no deal for tenants?
Due to the generational disruption caused by Covid-19, a lot of commercial tenants haven’t paid their rent in full or even at all for the last year.
They have been protected by moratorium provisions introduced during the initial lockdowns but these are currently due to expire in March 2022 and latest estimates indicate that over a million tenants are in arrears to the collective total of £9 billion.
In order to circumvent the high probability of a wave of lease forfeitures and insolvencies, the new law introduces a compulsory arbitration process between the landlord and the commercial tenant.
The arbitrator is granted powers to grant relief to the tenant over the wishes of the landlord if necessary including a waiver of the rent arrears or payment deferments. The bill states that “the arbitrator should aim to restore and preserve the viability of the business of the tenant so as to preserve the landlord’s solvency.”
The introduction of arbitration can be seen as an attempt to get more landlords and tenants to agree repayment settlements before March with it acting as a last resort blacktop but as it is a brand new provision with no previous precedent it could have some unforeseen consequences. The government’s own impact assessment states that the outcome of an arbitration will be “wholly uncertain”.
This could lead some parties to refuse concessions until they see how the new law will function and there could also be question marks about the cost and length of the arbitration process too.
The other parts of the bill are concerned with the £1.5 billion of business rates relief being provided to some of the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic which had not previously been eligible for existing support linked to business rates.
This will be administered by local authorities who will set up the schemes on a local area basis for eligible firms to access the relief.
Chris Horner, insolvency director with Business Rescue Expert thinks that while the law will bring some changes that will only be apparent later, there could well be an immediate effect in one area.
He said: “Once the full implications of these changes are considered by businesses then we could see some definite changes in the short term for sure.
“One thing to watch out for could be less dissolutions and more liquidations as directors under threat of investigation and being made personally liable for company debts consider their options and act accordingly.
“Striking off is an option that’s only available to businesses under a certain set of conditions. But even if a business was able to close this way, it would still leave them potentially liable for bounce back loan arrears, outstanding tax, VAT and other debts owed to other creditors.
“A liquidation is the only certain way to close a business permanently and draw a firm line under any debts the business owes.”
It feels almost in bad taste to discuss the critical opening weeks of 2022 when a lot of businesses are struggling to get through what should have been their busiest period of the year right now.
But they will be here sooner than you think and how a business owner or director handles these crucial days could be the difference between having a successful future or not having one at all.
We offer a free initial consultation for any company that is worried about outstanding bounce back loans, VAT arrears or any other debts the firm has accrued in the past two years or even earlier.
Once we get a clearer idea of where you are and what you’re up against then we’ll be able to recommend a range of options to choose from - usually more than you think there could be.
But this is only if you get in touch and do it soon because for some companies even delaying a few weeks will mean that it could be too late to save the business.
And while it’s important to continue to look ahead to a hopefully better and brighter 2022, we should understand what’s happened in the immediate past as a reliable guide to exactly where we find ourselves right now as an economy.
The latest official monthly company insolvency statistics have been published by the Insolvency Service and reveal the big news that not only have business insolvencies risen again but they have risen significantly.
The total number for England and Wales inclusively in November was 1,674 which was not only up by 16% (269) on the previous month but up a huge 88% on the same month last year and up 11% on November 2019 (pre-pandemic).
November was also the seventh month in a row where the number of corporate insolvencies was not only over 1,000 but also higher than the corresponding number for the same month a year ago.
Of the 1,674 company insolvencies, the clear majority remain Creditor Voluntary Liquidations (CVLs) with 1,521 being recorded last month.
This is an unusually high figure being 99% higher than a year ago and 43% higher than the pre-pandemic November 2019.
A closer break down of the figures reveals:
There were a total of 104 corporate insolvencies in Scotland in November, up 36 from the 68 recorded in October. This figure is 126% higher than a year previously and 18% higher than two years ago for the same monthly period.
The overall total was made up of 21 compulsory liquidations (12 in October), 76 CVLs (54 in October) and 7 administrations (up from 2 in October.) Once again there were no CVAs or receivership appointments this month, the same total as last month.
In Northern Ireland in November there were 9 company insolvencies recorded which was 5 fewer than in the previous month. This was also down 71% on pre-pandemic November 2019 but was up 29% on the same month in the province a year ago.
The total number was made of 2 compulsory liquidations, 6 CVLs and one administration. There were no CVAs or receivership appointments registered.
Overall, the total number of UK company insolvencies in November 2021 is 1,687 - up by 200 from October 2020.
“They feel survival is impossible in the current climate”
Christina Fitzgerald, Deputy Vice President of R3, the insolvency and restructuring trade body, said: “The monthly increase in corporate insolvencies has been driven by a rise in CVLs to their highest number in more than two and a half years.
“The increase in the use of this process suggests that a rising number of company directors are choosing to close their businesses, perhaps because they feel that survival is impossible in the current climate.
“Times are tough for businesses in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as the pandemic continues to take its toll on the economy and the firms that drive it. Over the last few weeks businesses have been hit by the triple whammy of increased costs, supply chain issues and rising Covid-19 cases.
“They’ve also been operating in the face of low consumer confidence and anaemic economic growth in recent months, which, coupled with an increasingly difficult Covid-19 situation, has led to changes in people’s shopping and spending habits and taken its toll on revenue levels.
“It remains to be seen how the introduction of Plan B will affect the economy in the short and medium term, but we know it will affect footfall, spending and operations at a time when many businesses would have been hoping for a busy Christmas period to help after a challenging year.”
For the seventh month in a row, company insolvencies are now higher than they were a year ago and have not only reached pre-pandemic levels but surpassed them.
Meanwhile, thousands of small businesses from all over the country are battling against staff shortages, supply chain problems, pandemic restrictions, customer nervousness and for many, growing debt arrears.
If you have an outstanding bounce back loan, PAYE or VAT arrears or any other obligations that are getting harder or are impossible to meet, then you might be wondering how you can hope to remain open into 2022, let alone make a return to profit.
The good news is that there might be more than one solution to achieve this no matter how tough the present situation looks but only if you take the important first step and get in touch with us.
After your free initial consultation with one of our experienced advisors, they will be able to explain in plain English what you can do to improve your company’s chances with the various courses of action that are open to you.
They’ll also tell you if they think the business has a realistic chance of survival and if not, can explain various other courses of action about how it could be closed with a minimum of stress and fuss that would satisfy creditors and leave directors free to move onto their next venture without historic debts hanging over them.
Take your first step on the road to recovery today and by Spring you could be in a better position than you think today.
The Prime Minister has deployed various “Plan B” measures to help stem the flow of the Omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus with cases already doubling every few days.
This includes bringing advice in England into line with the other devolved nations so staff should work from home where possible and announcing mandatory vaccine passports for nightclubs and other venues hosting large crowds.
Even before these announcements, many companies in the hospitality, leisure, entertainment and travel sectors are reporting many cancellations of bookings.
UKHospitality estimates that pub and restaurant takings could be down in December by as much as 40% while the Night Time Industries Association estimated that their Scottish and Welsh members had seen a drop in trade of up to 30% where restrictions were already in place and could see a similar effect happen in England.
Chief Executive Michael Kill said all his members were facing 12 days of “Christmas misery” by allowing businesses to trade while telling consumers to reduce social contact at the same time.
He said: “It’s vital that the government recognises the impact of its public health messaging and swiftly implements proportionate financial support.”
Clive Watson, chairman of the City Pub Group, with 50 establishments all over the UK, confirms that “about 10 days ago, office parties started to get cancelled, particularly those office parties which were being funded by companies so typically for 40 to 50 people.
“Not only are you not making money now but you’re not building out the cash to help you in the very lean periods in January and February. It’s almost like turning off the life support machine.
“Energy prices have gone through the roof, labour prices have also gone up significantly and inflation is running at 5%.
“This means we could easily see the price of beer increase by up to 25p or more in the next year. We’re not against restrictions and if they help slow down the progress of this variant, fine.
“But please give us an enhanced state aid to help tide us over to those leaner months otherwise a lot of businesses in our sector will just run out of cash.”
The Society of Independent Theatres estimates that many regional and smaller theatres are facing a peak Christmas season with bookings down as much as 50% in some cases at the time of year when they usually generate a full third of their income.
Although several high profile productions due to be staged at the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Donmar Warehouse have cancelled performances already due to a combination of cast members becoming ill which will only depress demand further.
The Premier League is also seeing matches cancelled for the first time this season due to Covid-19 infections with the squads of Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United.
The weekly survey of compulsory player testing showed that the league found 42 players had tested positive last week - the highest weekly total ever recorded with the previous high of 40 occurring in January 2021.
Ruby McGregor-Smith, president of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “The government must once again stand shoulder to shoulder with business and provide a package of support to ensure that we get through a challenging winter without serious damage to our economic recovery.
Matthew Fell, chief policy director at the CBI said the fresh restrictions were a “big setback for businesses” especially in the hospitality, retail and transport sectors, at a key time for sales.
He said: “It will be vital that the impact of these restrictions is closely monitored, and that the government is ready with targeted support as required.
“With plan B coming in, the net effect is that demand in some sectors will be suppressed and cash flow will clearly be an issue for some firms in the next few weeks.”
Economic analysts are predicting that the adoption of plan B would reduce GDP overall by about 0.2% to 0.5%.
Economist Paul Dales said the effects would: “feel fairly small if people don’t buy train tickets, go to work or the pub near the office.
“It’s very different to shutting all retailers and hospitality.”
But he acknowledged that the launch of more stringent requirements such as closing non-essential retail, pubs, restaurants and even schools would cause more severe damage estimated at between 3% and 5% which would be a “worst-case scenario”.
When the first lockdowns were announced in Q2 2020 there was a collapse of almost 20% in GDP which formed part of the worst economic slump the UK had ever experienced.
Dales acknowledged that any further moves to tighten controls would trigger an immediate contraction in the economy and lead to immediate demands to reinstate emergency support measures such as business grants, loans, tax cuts or even a reinstatement of the furlough scheme.
Another unpromising data point also published this week showed that up to a third (33%) of small businesses were planning to make redundancies in the next few months rising to four in ten in London.
This is in addition to 49% many saying they will be forced to raise prices over the next six months too citing the problems with supply chains as the main reason. Only 38% cited increased staffing costs as the main driver in price increases.
442 respondents said they were still struggling with repaying debts accrued during the pandemic including bounce back loans as well as grappling with supply chain disruption, keystaff shortages and increasing energy costs.
When somebody refers to Last Christmas it used to mean they meant the lovely song or even the feel good film.
Now, especially If you’re in the hospitality or entertainment industries it’s more likely to be a warning or a threat.
Even if the cases don’t rise to the amounts feared by the authorities, for many pubs and restaurants looking at empty spaces where full parties should be, the damage has already been done.
You don’t have to be an economics expert to understand that Christmas is a pivotal period for many companies and that without the ability to build up reserves and savings, even if additional support measures are forthcoming, it might already be too late for them to recover or survive.
While all of this is playing out, any business owner or director that is worried about how they will see through the next few months shouldn’t spend any more time worrying and find out what they can do instead.
Once they outline the particulars of their situation to one of our experienced, expert advisors, they can then let them know what options they’ve got whether they would prefer to rescue and restructure their business or not.
Some otherwise viable companies might owe too much to continue so being able to close down efficiently even with debts (this will link to the closing company down blog) might be the best way to go - especially as they could then look forward to beginning again without this burden weighing them down and holding them back.
But without taking that initial step and getting in touch this could just be another worry to add to an already uncertain Christmas.
The bounce back loan scheme was designed to distribute money quickly to businesses that were in desperate need of funds when it was launched in March 2020.
£47 billion of funding was loaned out to over 1.5 million companies. Over 90% of these or £39.7 billion was awarded to small and medium sized businesses with a turnover of £632,000 or below.
To give a sense of scale, one in four UK businesses applied for one of them and as the NAO noted: “The government prioritised payment speed over almost all other aspects of value for money.
The government says that it expects up to 37% or £17 billion of loans would not be repaid either through fraud or because legitimate borrowers would not be able to afford the repayments when they came due.
This is slightly better than the median case scenario outlined in scenarios from HM Treasury in March 2021 that we highlighted in our bounce back loan investigative series published earlier this year.
Under that case the total number of bounce back loan defaults to rise to over 600,000 while £18.6 billion would remain unpaid.
To give an example of the scale of this figure, it is the cost of building 16 Wembley Stadiums!
Additionally, the NAO thinks it has identified approx. 11% or £4.9 billion of funds that have been paid out fraudulently
According to internal estimates the level of fraud is from £3.5 to £4.9 billion but this excludes general dishonesty such as overstating turnover in order to secure a larger initial amount. This refers to newly formed companies or existing businesses used purely to access bounce back loan lending.
At the end of September the British Business Bank found that £2 billion of loans had been repaid set against a further £1.3 billion had been defaulted on.
The NAO found that about 7% or 100,000 of loans were at least one month in arrears and that despite 13 anti-fraud measures being introduced after the scheme’s launch these were “too late to prevent fraud and were instead focused on detection.”
So far only £3 million has been recovered through 33 investigations with a total of 43 arrests.
One factor that hasn’t been discussed in detail is the lending banks forbearance and potential reticence in pursuing outstanding or overdue bounce back loans.
The amounts paid out do have the backstop of being guaranteed by the government but this arrangement has conditions attached including providing evidence that they have made genuine attempts to reclaim outstanding bounce back loan funds.
Although the NAO recognises that different lenders might treat their borrowers differently. There are specific recovery principles set out under the scheme although there is leeway for lenders to follow their “business as usual” approach to debt recovery providing it doesn’t contravene the principles of the scheme.
This means that if a lender's usual approach includes using debt collection agencies then this would be allowed but doorstep visits from bailiffs would not be allowed under the scheme.
When the scheme was first launched there was a lot of discussion around lenders on how the recovery process would operate, foreseeing that it could be problematic in PR terms trying to recover funds from struggling businesses who got into trouble through no fault of their own.
The sheer volume of loans to be administered and recovered led to them exploring setting up a separate body to oversee the process of subcontracting the whole endeavour to UK Finance - the banking trade body - but this was ultimately rejected.
The report also focused on how potential fraud would be handled.
BEIS - The department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy - reiterated that their main priority would be pursuing organised crime which was viewed as the highest risk group along with sums of more than £100,000 borrowed.
They note that while some individuals might have acted dishonestly to obtain a loan or dishonestly received one, they would not be a focus for their investigative teams if there are no other fraud indicators present.
The preference is for lenders to pursue unpaid amounts and recovery where feasible.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) wrote to all lenders as their main regulator in July 2021 to remind them of their wider obligations to report fraud but the NAO recognises that as long as borrowers make repayments and the lenders make genuine attempts to recover outstanding debt then there is little they could do further to this.
Chris Horner, insolvency director with Business Rescue Expert said: “The evidence the NAO has seen matches what we’ve been hearing from businesses that have tried to close with an outstanding bounce back loan but have been stopped by HMRC.
“They are treating this as a high priority now so dissolution or striking off is now virtually impossible for a company with these debts outstanding.
“As lenders are being pressured by the government from above to recover more arrears, they will step up their pursuit of companies.
“Combined with HMRC using more compensation orders to make directors and business owners personally liable to repay any outstanding debts of a struck off business, this could be a worrying time - even without the Omicron variant and more potential restrictions on businesses trading in one of the busiest periods of the year.
“We know everybody is busy but taking an hour to get some professional insolvency advice might be the best use of 60 minutes this entire year.
“What they will learn and decide to do with their business might be the difference between being able to look forward to 2022 with some hope and enthusiasm against not being able to visualise any way past current financial difficulties.
“For instance, if a business chooses to close down through liquidation then even if they have outstanding bounce back loan arrears, it will be treated as any other type of unsecured debt.
“Which means if the directors have done their best to keep the company going then it will be allowed to close. The lender would be repaid by the government and the directors can cleanly move onto the next phase of their careers.”
Running a company this year might feel like trying to escape from a maze.
Every time you think you’ve solved your latest problem and you’ve finally turned the corner you’re met with a dead end and you have to find another way.
Sometimes the best thing to do is get in touch with people who’ve helped hundreds of others in the same situation get past their latest obstacle and move forward.
We offer a free initial consultation for any director or business owner who wants one and needs to do something to change their path and quickly.
Once we get a clearer picture of your unique circumstances, we can work with you to create an efficient and effective strategy that could either give your company renewed energy and hope or if you’ve already made the decision you want to move on, help close the company with a minimum of stress, fuss and hassle.
No matter how you see your personal end game, we can help you reach it quicker than you could by yourself.
If you’re a business owner or director you will have additional responsibilities and worries because for many this year might need to be a bumper one in terms of sales and trade after the uncertainty of the previous 18 months.
But before the first door on the advent calendar opens, we need to catch up on all the important business and insolvency stories that happened in November including more energy companies entering administration, well established businesses entering liquidation and others being able to restructure their debts successfully with a CVA.
Energy Industry fallout continues
Bulb Energy, the largest energy company to run into financial difficulties this year, has gone into a special administration leaving their 1.7 million customers in unforced limbo.
Since September more than 20 energy companies have entered insolvency, effectively halving the energy market. At the beginning of 2021, the UK domestic energy market had 47 large, medium and small suppliers - this is now down to 25.
The combined cost of these business failures is estimated to be approaching £2 billion leaving 3.7 million customers looking for a new supplier.
A spokesperson for Bulb said “The rising energy crisis in the UK and around the world has concerned our investors who can’t go ahead while wholesale prices are so high.”
Additionally the company criticised the UK’s rising energy price cap which was designed to set a fair energy price for the 15 million homes using standard energy tariffs but hasn’t kept pace with the rocketing increases in the wholesale energy markets.
The price cap has increased by £139 for customers on a default tariff raising the average bill from £1,138 to £1,277 while prepayment customers saw an average increase of £153 - from £1,156 to £1,309.
Because Bulb has so many customers, Ofgem the industry regulator will use a special administration process which will keep the business providing energy while its future is explored by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Treasury possibly for months.
Other energy businesses which have failed this month include BlueGreen, Zebra Power, Omni Energy, Ampower and MA Energy.
Legal businesses go into administration
Affinity Finance, a specialist litigation funder specialising in financial mis-selling claims and personal injury cases has stopped taking new business and filed a notice of appointment of an administrator.
The business helped provide funding to other law firms to pursue these cases on behalf of their clients.
Another UK claims firm, Pure Legal, also went into administration this month with the loss of over a hundred jobs along with Liverpool based personal injury specialist Hampson Hughes who were unsuccessful in finding new investment or a buyer for their business.
The business sees 20 staff lose their positions after a long-term fall in turnover that was brought about by personal injury reforms in the sector.
People’s Fibre fails to find enough customers
Alternative ISP provider People’s Fibre which began building a 1GB Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) network in 2020 was placed into administration at the request of investors after a “breakdown in the relationship between them and the company’s sole director.”
Networks were being built in the Deesside area of the North Wales border and in Braintree in Essex but work was halted when investors were granted an administration order against the business.
The administrator is hopeful of being able to conduct a sale of the business’ assets including the already built parts of the network to other operators.
Last Orders at Lancashire pubs
The owners of a business that ran the historic Black Dog pub in Oswaldtwistle near Bolton which had been open since the 1800s, has gone into liquidation.
The pub had been run by Colin Manford, brother of comedian Jason, since 2016 and despite battling against the pandemic restrictions and considering all viable restructure and rescue options, the decision to cease trading and enter liquidation was the only responsible option available to the business and its owners.
A spokesperson said: “The owners are not the first to suffer this result in the pub industry and unfortunately, will not be the last.
“It’s been an extremely challenging time for everyone, but we know this has been a particularly difficult decision for the owners who had great plans for the pub with a community focus.
“Liquidation was the necessary step in order to protect the business and the interests of creditors.
Hawthorns, another popular wedding venue and restaurant in the town has also gone into liquidation with the owners deciding to close the doors only 19 months after acquiring the business and spending £139,000 on refurbishments.
The owners also closed another of their establishments in Blackburn during the previous week saying: “Covid-19 has been one of the main factors for us having to shut.
“The lockdowns and rising costs and debts have led to the closure and it is a dead fish as we were not able to put money into it. It’s heart-wrenching that we’ve invested time, money and lots of effort and pride into the project to get it in a good position but it has been a difficult time.
“We’ve been closed for eight weeks as we’ve been trying to get eight staff jobs filled. We need a team of four or five chefs and a manager but have been unable to recruit sufficiently.”
Worst month for Construction in over 18 months
R&W Rail, a railway renewal works specialist for Network Rail, is the latest construction business to close down this month joining the other 22 which is the highest monthly total for the sector since March 2020.
The business entered voluntary liquidation after directors understood that it had become unviable.
A statement issued by the company said: “The team have worked tirelessly to build the business from a start-up in 2016 to a tier one provider to Network Rail in 2021, a fantastic achievement that makes the closing of the business, although a necessity, a very hard decision to make.”
Additionally one of Scotland’s oldest family-owned construction businesses Weir & McQuiston has gone into administration with the loss of nearly 100 positions.
They provided mechanical and installation services for the commercial, industrial and residential sectors.
A spokesperson said “The administration was caused by unsustainable cash flow problems stemming from wafer thin margins in the construction sector, the cessation of construction activity and the widely reported problems with labour and materials shortages.
“The business had expanded rapidly in recent years and diversified into new markets becoming established as one of Scotland’s leading mechanical contractors
“The directors did everything possible to keep the business trading, however the scale of cash flow problems and the impact of the lockdown left them with no alternative other than to cease trading and place the company into administration.”
Sheffield based metalwork specialist Architectural Fabrications has also gone into administration with the loss of 70 full time positions.
The business could not find a purchaser and blamed issues surrounding the sourcing and cost of steel over the months leading up to the administration as the main contributing factors to the failure of the business.
In the previous 12 months the cost of fabricated steel has increased by 72.6% amid shortages of material.
Two Sheffield based joinery companies have also gone into liquidation this month.
Birley Joinery employed 18 staff and manufactured tobacco kiosks in supermarkets and other projects in the hospitality sector but orders were delayed and contracts lost during the pandemic which proved to be insurmountable.
A spokesperson for the company said: “Due to a combination of issues and despite great efforts to secure the future of the companies, sadly neither has been able to continue trading and as a result they have now been placed in liquidation.”
Dernie & Bell had been operating since 1953 primarily manufacturing staircases for house builders. They split their operations between two sites but this caused delays and a fire at one of the premises caused further delays and disruption along with a huge rise in the cost of timber compounding financial difficulties.
A further 14 members of staff were made redundant as a result of the liquidation.
The surveying and property maintenance arm of an Isle of Wight property company has entered voluntary liquidation.
Gully Howard announced their decision earlier in November but their commercial property agent business will continue to trade as normal.
The business issued a statement which read: “The directors of Gully Howard Ltd have this week announced an orderly closing of the business. All creditors will be paid in full and we are pleased to reassure our clients past, present and future that the property side of the business will be unaffected by the closure.”
Online second-hand clothing retailer Looper has gone into administration after failing to secure enough funding.
The business was launched in Newport, Wales in 2017 aiming to reduce the environmental impact of the fashion industry.
The company had raised money to support expansion from investors including the Development Bank of Wales.
A statement from the business said: “A crowdfunding campaign to secure private investment to match further capital from the development bank failed to reach its target and as a result the business has entered voluntary liquidation.
“Any proceeds from the company administration will be distributed to the company’s creditors according to priority.”
The upcoming Christmas trading period will be the busiest for years for many companies but it will also bring with it moments of calm and clarity when thoughts can turn to more fundamental issues surrounding the company.
It could be the ideal opportunity to reevaluate the health and direction of the business beforehand and if necessary, take steps to improve things before the rush arrives.
Our free, initial consultation for directors and business owners gives them the chance to go through their situation in detail with an experienced, expert advisor.
They can then outline all the realistic options for the business - which might be even more comprehensive and effective than they thought would be available.
But they won’t know what they could do until they take the first step and get in touch with us.
It’s in the spirit of anti climax we look at the newly released official monthly company insolvency statistics by the Insolvency Service - because after increasing for two consecutive months they have fallen back again.
The number for England and Wales inclusively last month was 1,405, which although similar to pre-pandemic levels was 3% (41) lower than the previous month’s total.
It was still 63% higher than the same month in the previous year but was 5% lower than the pre-pandemic total of October 2019.
Despite the slight monthly fall in numbers, October 2021 was the sixth month in succession when the number of corporate insolvencies were over 1,000 and were also higher than the corresponding figure for the year before.
Of the total 1,405 company insolvencies, the vast majority are still Creditor Voluntary Liquidations (CVLs) which made up 1,248 of the total amount.
This is higher than pre-pandemic levels but other types of company insolvencies such as compulsory liquidations including winding up orders remain lower.
If we break the figures down further we can see:
There were a total of 68 corporate insolvencies in Scotland in October, down from 70 recorded in September.
This consisted of 12 compulsory liquidations (8 in September), 54 CVLs (52 in September) and two administrations (down from 10 last month). There were no CVAs or receivership appointments this month.
The total of 68 was 58% higher than in October 2020 but 18% lower than October 2019.
In Northern Ireland in October there were 14 company insolvencies registered which is three more than the previous month and 75% higher than a year ago but remains 73% lower than pre-pandemic October 2019.
This was made up of 12 CVLs, one administration and one compulsory liquidation. There were no CVAs or receivership appointments registered.
The overall number of UK company insolvencies for October 2021 is 1,487 which is down by 40 from September but remains higher than the 1,446 recorded in August.
Christina Fitzgerald, Deputy Vice President of R3, the insolvency and restructuring trade body, said: “The month on month fall in corporate insolvencies has been driven by a reduction in the number of Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidations (CVLs).
However, there are still twice as many companies entering this procedure than this time last year, and nearly 20% more than in 2019.
“This would suggest that there are still a fair number of company directors who are choosing to close their business after deeming post-pandemic success unlikely. However, the fact that overall corporate insolvencies are 5% lower than the number in October 2019 suggests that the Government’s support measures have prevented the economic consequences of COVID from translating into higher levels of corporate insolvency.
“The business climate is still harsh. Economic growth is slowing, costs are rising, and consumer confidence is falling.
“And although consumer spending is higher than it was this time last year, rising COVID case numbers and sharp energy price rises have meant many businesses aren’t seeing the benefits of this.
“As we move closer to Christmas, we would urge company directors to be mindful of the signs of business distress, which include cash flow problems, issues paying invoices, and concerns about paying staff, and seek advice as soon as they appear.”
For the sixth month in a row, company insolvencies are higher than they were in the corresponding month six months ago and are approaching parity with the same levels they were about before the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns began.
Against this backdrop, businesses are having to contend with an uncertain pre-Christmas trading period with the threat of Covid-19, staffing shortages, supply chain problems and growing debt obligations.
Businesses with outstanding bounce back loan payments, VAT and PAYE arrears and other unmanageable commitments might be wondering how they will manage to make it through the New Year and into early 2022, let alone return to profitability.
There might be a solution within their reach if they get in touch with us first.
We offer a free initial consultation to any business owner or director who wants to discuss their situation in more detail with one of our experienced advisors.
Once they have a firmer grasp of the situation, they will be able to recommend various courses of action they can take to help turn their situation around.
Alternatively, if the debts are too problematic to deal with then they can also explain the various options they can use to close their business with a minimum of fuss and stress and ensure that creditors receive their due.
A total of 3,765 overall insolvencies including liquidations and administrations were recorded over this period - which is 17% higher than in the previous quarter covering April to June and is 43% higher than the same quarter from the previous year.
Creditors voluntary liquidations (CVLs) was the most common procedure as it featured in 92% of all insolvencies with 3,471 cases.
This is a rise of 16.7% compared to the previous quarter this year and a rise of 43.5% compared to the same period a year ago.
Administrations and receiverships increased by 26% from the previous quarter and additionally company dissolutions or strike offs increased 52.1% compared to a year ago with 53,325, which was also a rise of 19.9% (25,799) on the same period in 2019 before the pandemic arrived.
Compulsory or forced liquidations remained at near all-time lows with 172 due to a combination of support measures such as the bounce back loan, CBILS and the furlough scheme as well as restrictions on creditor actions such as being able to bring winding up petitions against debtors.
Economic damage now reflected in the figures
Nick Fisher, Deputy Vice President of R3, the insolvency and restructuring trade body, said: “The economic damage caused by the pandemic is now starting to be reflected in the levels of corporate insolvency - but the picture is mixed when looking at the different types of procedure.
“Corporate insolvencies have risen this quarter to the highest quarterly figure since the pandemic began, and this has been driven by a rise in creditors voluntary liquidations (CVLs) to their highest quarterly total in 12 years.
“That said, administrations have remained static compared to Q2, while there has been a small drop in the number of CVAs; both of which are much lower compared to the year before.
“The rise in CVLs would suggest that company directors are choosing to close their businesses after trading for more than a year and a half during the pandemic and deeming future success unlikely.
“This is understandable given the current economic climate. Over the last three months, businesses have faced a perfect storm of rising energy prices, labour market and supply chain issues, coupled with the winding down and withdrawal of the Government’s support measures.
“In addition to this, consumer spending and confidence declined over the late summer and early autumn as people worried about their finances and the future of the economy, and cut back on their spending as a result.”
Chris Horner, insolvency director with BusinessRescueExpert.co.uk said: “We’ve been expecting to see company insolvencies increase for a little while so it’s no big surprise to see them increase.
“Contributing factors include the end of the furlough scheme and businesses who deferred HMRC liabilities starting to repay them as well as other borrowing such as CBILS and bounce back loans also coming due.
“A factor in the increase in creditors voluntary liquidations may be that under specific conditions winding up petitions can be pursued by creditors again so directors might have chosen to take action now rather than await others taking it.
“We’ve all seen the news about higher inflation, staff shortages, increasing energy prices, possible interest rate rises and the need to repay pandemic incurred debt. Any combination of which would likely lead to a further increase in insolvencies in the next quarter covering October, November and December this year.
“Any of these will put additional pressure on businesses over the upcoming Christmas period, especially those in the hospitality, retail and leisure sectors that have already suffered disproportionately over the past 18 months and need a positive response in the next three months.
“Any business owner or director that’s worrying about whether their company will be able to have a good enough festive sales period to meet their outgoings can use this time constructively. So can those that know they won’t be able to service their debt obligations regardless of their performance over the next three months.”
It will be 2022 in less than two months so time is short.
But there will be enough to help a company turn its fortunes around if those in charge use the time properly and get in touch with us to begin to work on a recovery strategy.
They can book a free initial consultation with one of our experienced advisors online, by phone or email for a convenient time and day for them.
Once we have a clearer idea of the situation facing them and their business, we can begin to put together the most appropriate, efficient and effective strategy to fix their problems and make 2022 a real year of recovery and renewal.
But only if they take the first step of the journey right now and get active in their own rescue.
The budget may or may not have bought your business some better news last week depending on your sector and situation but even if it didn’t there’s so much going on anyway you’d be forgiven for not noticing.
A lot is happening and did happen in October so before we finally turn the page on the month - here’s our regular monthly round up of all the business, insolvency, administration and CVA news and stories you might have missed this.
GOTO Energy and others
Goto Energy has become the latest in a line of gas and electricity suppliers to close as the sector struggles to cope with record high gas prices.
The wholesale gas price has risen 250% this year alone due to low storage levels after a cold winter in Europe last year, increased energy demand from Asia and low wind speeds affecting the output of renewable energy supplies.
Set up in 2019, the Kent-based renewable energy supplier is the 16th to go out of business this year leaving 22,000 customers waiting for Ofgem to appoint a new supplier. Most of the businesses could not absorb the costs and could not wholly pass them onto customers.
This month has also seen BP-backed renewable firm Pure Planet, Daligas, Colorado Energy, Igloo Energy, Enstroga and Symbio Energy cease trading resulting in the displacement of over a quarter of a million customers.
Ofgem offers a supplier of last resort scheme ensuring that there will be no interruption to gas or electricity supply but customers should take a meter reading so they are ready when a new supplier gets in touch.
CNG Group Gas
Businesses are also likely to be affected by the surge in energy bills this winter with one example being the closure of the CNG Group.
The Yorkshire-based wholesale company sells gas to 40,000 small and medium sized businesses and 15 small energy suppliers but has announced that it is withdrawing from the market.
Unlike consumers, businesses do not have an equivalent price cap on their energy bills leaving many of them exposed to rising prices that could increase their cost by up to four times as much.
CEO Paul Stanley wrote to customers to say the past few weeks had been “unprecedented” for energy markets and that the company had been hit hard by customer bankruptcies leaving it with unpaid bills for gas shipments.
While the government hopes that CNG’s decision is a one-off, analysts fear that this could spark a domino effect among other suppliers which could remove even more providers from the domestic and commercial market.
Gieves and Hawkes
The Chinese parent company of 250-year-old Savile Row tailor Gieves & Hawkes has defaulted on debts meaning the storied brand along with others such as Kent & Curwen could face liquidation from this week.
Trinity Limited which is owned by Shandong Ruyi Technology Group was served with a winding up order by creditors who will vote on November 4th for their preferred option which could include a sale or other insolvency solution.
Other brands owned by the company which could also be affected include Aquascutum, Cerruti and SMCP.
URBN and Create Construction companies crumble
Create construction based in Blackpool called in administrators after facing a “very challenging trading period” in October.
A spokesperson said that the directors had exhausted other options and “the pandemic has severely affected both our clients and our supply chain’s ability to meet their contractual arrangements.
“An overrun in projects in both time and cost, a number of supply chain failures and delays to a secured pipeline of projects, has ultimately made the company unviable.
“Having set the business up in 2006, we have worked hard to build our reputation in a competitive sector and we are proud of the fabulous schemes that we have delivered over the years.
“The construction industry continues to be hit hard as a result of the pandemic, with significant rising costs and limited resources available. As a consequence, we have seen the failure of some reputable and established companies like ourselves.”
Other casualties in a sector that has seen several high profile names fall include Bardsley, NMCN, CPUK and Cruden Construction. Artez’s construction business also entered voluntary liquidation earlier this month.
They were joined by URBN construction based in Plymouth becoming two of more than 1,600 building and construction companies who have closed their doors since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020 - more than any other sector including retail and hospitality.
When one company fails it can be a tragedy but when several more are affected in the fallout then it can quickly become a calamity - especially if they’re a main client or a large part of a company’s income depends on them.
Ash Residential Property Management (ARPM) was a residential outsourcing company that ceased trading in October after getting into financial difficulties.
Its collapse will affect over 8,000 properties and landlords including 70 estate agencies who used their services to manage their buildings.
A meeting with creditors was held and it was announced that ARMP would now be wound up via a liquidation process.
Luxury fashion brand Roland Mouret has announced its intention to appoint an administrator noting that the pandemic has destroyed demand for designer dresses.
Company investors including the Grosvenor Estate who took a minority stake after setting up a fund to help its retail tenants weather the pandemic have been looking for ways to raise new funding and keep the business solvent but will use the period of administration to buy more time to find a buyer or new investment before considering other options.
According to the latest accounts available from Companies House in 2019 the business had just under £1 million in profit based on sales of £16 million which shows how the pandemic decimated demand in the fashion industry.
Achievement for all
School improvement charity Achievement For All, which helped over 30,000 children across 1,879 in England and Wales in the past year alone, has gone into administration.
Dr Kulvarn Atwal, chair of the organisation wrote to staff to announce the news this week blaming the “double impact of the pandemic and current pressures on school budgets.”
He said that following financial advice the board had taken the very difficult decision to cease trading with immediate effect and enter formal administration.
“Throughout the pandemic, the staff have worked tirelessly to attract new funding and to create new opportunities for schools and settings.”
The Kidderminster based furniture company which before the pandemic was making 2,500 pieces of furniture a week, has gone into administration.
This raises uncertainty for the future of their 160 employees and suppliers who stock their products in stores and online.
Virgin Money announced that it would close 31 branches in Scotland and the North of England with the loss of 112 positions blaming the accelerated shift to online and mobile based banking caused by the pandemic.
This joins other brands such as HSBC, TSB and the Co-operative Bank who have all embarked on branch closure programs in the previous year.
The latest closures account for 20% of Virgin Money’s branch network reducing the footprint to 131, down from 245 in 2018.
Fergus Murphy, Virgin Money’s group customer experience director, said: “As our customers change the way they want to bank with us and conduct fewer transactions in-store, we must continue to evolve the role of our stores into places where we showcase our products and bring our digital services to life.”
With less than two months of 2021 remaining, it seems counterintuitive to say that it’s the ideal time for businesses to make the changes they need to survive and then thrive.
This is because one they get some impartial, professional advice - they can implement it immediately and some will start to see some changes straight away.
While others will take longer, the act of getting advice and acting on it is the first essential step of any successful recovery strategy.
We offer a free, initial consultation for business owners and directors with one of our advisors to get a full picture of their situation.
Once they understand what the most pressing issues are, they can then work with them to draw up a plan before the busy Christmas and New Year trading period really gets underway.
Alternatively, if there’s no realistic way the business can be viable again then they can explore the easiest and most stress free ways to close and deal with any subsequent creditors which can include bounce back loan borrowing and tax arrears too.
No matter what obstacles a business faces - we can help overcome them but only if they get in touch with us and soon.
While there was no fundamental restructuring of business rates that most retailers would have loved to have seen, there were some tweaks and amendments that might have short term benefits for them.
There was a temporary 50% discount on business rates, capped at £110,000 and for one year only for high street shops, pubs and restaurants alongside a pledge to make the system fairer by having more frequent revaluations taking place every three years.
The raise in business rates caused by the multiplier scheduled for next year was also cancelled.
Investment relief would also be available on green initiatives such as installing solar panels and improvement relief offered for 12 months following the enhancement of retail business premises.
The chancellor also announced a consultation on an online sales tax that would replace income lost from rates reform as part of a wider reorganization.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium which represents retailers was unimpressed.
She said: “The Chancellor spoke of a new age of optimism but retailers will struggle to share his confidence after a budget that does not do enough to reduce the burden of costs bearing down on our shops, our high streets and our communities.
“With firms still stuck on property valuations from 2015, the move to a three-year revaluation cycle, supported by a properly funded Valuation Office Agency, is welcome and is a clear acknowledgement that rates have fallen well out of kilter with the wider property market.
“The freeze in the multiplier is positive, though the evidence is clear that the current rate - over 50% in England - is already far too high.
“This budget is a missed opportunity for retail and the three million people who work in the industry, and it prevents retail from maximising its contribution to the government’s levelling up agenda.
“With no reduction in the rates burden, this will lead to the unnecessary loss of shops and jobs and fails to incentivise investment.”
Shevaun Haviland, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “Businesses have been battered by 18 months of the pandemic and problems around supply chain costs and disruption, labour shortages, price rises, soaring energy bills and taxes, and there may still be difficult months ahead.”
Chris Horner, Insolvency Director with BusinessRescueExpert.co.uk, said: “Despite business rates being suspended for 15 months for the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors from March 2020 before returning in June, they are still seen by many as an intractable problem.
“Those hoping for a revolution rather than evolution will be left disappointed by the budget although a 50% discount, albeit temporary, is better than none at all. The move to a three year cycle of revaluation will also benefit retailers with a physical store presence.
“For businesses already struggling with their outgoings, budgets rarely provide a magic bullet that will solve all their problems.
“The closest thing to that is arranging to speak to a professional and expert advisor who can assess their situation holistically and recommend an effective and efficient strategy for them and their business.”
Once we can get a clearer picture of their unique circumstances and situation, we can work with them to piece together a pathway back to profitability for them to follow if there is a viable way for them to turn their company’s fortunes around.
If the debts or other problems are insurmountable then we can advise on other strategies they can follow including liquidation that will allow them to close quickly and with a minimum of fuss and stress - which will allow them to begin again with a clean slate sooner than they might think.
Whatever their intentions or wishes - taking the first step and getting in touch soon will be the most important choice they make.