Halloween last year might have been a damp squib compared to previous years and the same might be said of anybody expecting a big shock when it came to the numbers reported.
One of the best things about watching horror films for the first time is trying to anticipate when the twist and surprise will come. Sometimes the director will stretch out the tension with false set ups where you expect a jumpscare but when the main character opens the cupboard door… suddenly nothing happens.
This means that when the real scare arrives it’s more unexpected and effective and in a movie, this will be true. When the same happens in the wider economy the consequences will be more serious than some spilled popcorn.
In October there were a total of 856 company insolvencies in England and Wales with an additional 44 in Scotland and 8 in Northern Ireland. Even added together, these 908 insolvencies are still less than the previous month.
The 856 total is made up of 672 Creditors Voluntary Liquidations (CVLs); 59 compulsory liquidations; 104 administrations and 21 Company Voluntary Arrangements (CVAs).
This is down 42% on the same month last year and is primarily driven by the big fall in CVLs and compulsory liquidations which are down 36% and 76% respectively. CVAs are down 42% for the same period too.
As we’ve previously written on the topic, all types of company insolvencies have fallen in consecutive quarters this year and this trend continued in the first month of Q4.
Company Voluntary Liquidations (CVLs) continue to be the most common insolvency process continuing to account for nearly three quarters of all procedures.
The continuing small recorded numbers of both CVAs and administrations is still surprising on the surface but simple explanations exist.
Firstly, financial support available to companies during the pandemic continues to be extended which will keep some businesses operating that would otherwise look to restructure or liquidate themselves.
Additionally, the suspension of statutory demands and winding-up petitions until the end of 2020 under the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act makes it harder for creditors to take enforcement action, along with the fact that the courts are still running a skeleton system and won’t be back to anything resembling a full service and schedule until next year at the earliest.
The figures also show that so far only two companies have obtained an insolvency moratorium and one company had a restructuring plan sanctioned by the court.
Both of these are new legal procedures but they could give companies adopting them big advantages going ahead in their efforts to rescue themselves and resurrect their long term profitability prospects.
“Gravity cannot be defied forever”
Colin Haig, President of R3 - the insolvency and restructuring trade association, said: “The continued low levels of corporate insolvency can once again be traced back to high levels of Government support and widespread creditor forbearance, both compelled and voluntary.
“With many creditors at present prevented by law from taking enforcement action, the usual triggers for seeking advice on dealing with an urgent debt problem are largely absent.
“With corporate insolvency numbers still far below their pre-pandemic levels, worries are mounting within the profession that a wave of business closures could be on the horizon, made up of both companies which would have become insolvent in the normal scheme of things along with businesses dealt a fatal blow by the pandemic.
“Gravity cannot be defied forever, and - with temporary measures stopping creditor enforcement actions against debtors due to expire at the end of the year - the first few months of 2021 could turn out to be difficult ones for large swathes of businesses which have built up arrears with landlords, suppliers, or the taxman.”
One thing that can be assured about scary movies is that the shock does eventually arrive and when it does, it’s usually a big one.
You don’t have to be Stanley Kubrick to realise that it will be the same with insolvencies when all the various support systems and guard rails are removed.
It’s also a fair assumption that at this point there will be a lot of businesses scrambling for help and support but it might already be too late for them.
The smart and proactive ones will already have their support plans and restructuring help already in place to avoid a messy or chaotic reckoning.
Get in touch with us today to help build your survival strategy.
We can arrange your free initial virtual consultation to help bolster and buttress your business right now before any problems become critical.
Even though Guy Fawkes night has officially been postponed, the bang and whine of fireworks fills the air along with the more reassuring and palatable smell of autumn bonfires - once you’ve established that it’s an office fire and not one caused by an errant rocket you’d heard explode a couple of minutes earlier.
What was less predictable was that we’d be entering another lockdown.
The announcement was made quickly as was the shoring up of official support behind it including extending the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) until March 2021.
Even with extended support, the forced closure of a lot of businesses in the next four weeks, in the critical trading period running up to Christmas, might prove to be terminal for them.
The situation is already tightening for a lot of businesses and the current restrictions might just be enough for the threads supporting them to finally snap.
Here’s our regular round-up of the biggest insolvency and administration stories you might have missed in the past couple of weeks.
The nutritional food-to-go chain Abokado entered a pre-pack administration with the loss of 150 jobs.
While the business has been unable to open any of its 19 London locations since the first lockdown was implemented nationwide in March.
Founder Mark Lilley said: “Unfortunately, in light of the continued uncertainty, the accumulating liabilities and the existing leasehold structures, it was impossible to secure sufficient investment to reopen the business.
“However, for a business such as Abokado, which is entirely dependent on London’s office community, the overnight shift to working from home and the emptying out of central London has been simply devastating.
“Our hope is for the Abokado brand to re-emerge at some point in the future and in turn to create employment, to once again be a well-loved amenity for London’s workforce and to continue doing good within the community.”
One of the staples of new life in the UK is receiving a package from Bounty once a newborn arrives. Their welcome packs contain popular samples of products that every new mum will need including feed and nappies and can be a great help when sleep deprived and confused new parents come home at all hours and can’t find what they’re looking for.
Sadly, the Covid-19 lockdown caused their baby portrait section to cease operations and this great loss of income has severely impacted the business financially.
A pre-pack administration deal is expected to see the company’s sampling and data divisions bought out by existing management but with the loss of approx 300 of their 340 permanent positions.
They hope to be able to focus on the company's core strengths as babies are continuing to be born throughout the health crisis - some possibly because of it!
Clarks’ - The 195-year-old high street staple and one of the oldest stores in the country - is expected to enter into a CVA later this month which will protect the jobs of all of its employees and allow all of its stores to remain open when the lockdown allows them.
The deal, which will be voted on by creditors would also see them agree to a rent-free period on 60 of their stores.
Philip de Klerk, their interim finance chief said: “In order to address the permanent shift in structural shopping behaviour as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the CVA is being launched out of absolute necessity.
“The proposal to creditors outlines a combination of a reduction of rent and a move to rebase Clarks’ rental cost base through a turnover-based model that aligns to future performance and reflects the wider retail market.
“As part of the CVA, we will move 60 of our 320 stores to nil rent. It is important to stress that we are not announcing the closure of any stores and employees and suppliers will continue to be paid.”
One of the most well-known bakery chains in the South West, Shauls Bakery, has gone into Creditors Voluntary Liquidation due to being insolvent.
The company had 12 branches across Devon and Somerset and closed them all in March during the first lockdown but were unable to open them.
A notice was placed in the London Gazette and a formal resolution to wind up the company was passed at a general meeting of the firm and a liquidator appointed.
Formed in 1961, the bakery’s first HQ is now a block of flats called Shauls House so there will always be a reminder of them in the area.
Clothing 4 Schools, a prolific manufacturer and retailer of school uniforms across the east and west midlands has gone into administration. The business had five outlets including its head office in Burton but all remain closed while the administrator proceeds with their work.
PGL Travel, one of the UK’s largest outdoor activity holiday suppliers for schools, has announced that it is cutting 670 positions from its workforce.
A spokesperson said: “The Covid-19 pandemic and the on-going travel restrictions have had an unprecedented impact on the educational travel sector and NST.
“In this context, we have finalised a redundancy consultation process and it is with great regret that we advise the loss of 42 jobs, around 25% of our Blackpool-based workforce. As we conclude a further consultation process, a further 636 colleagues have been made redundant across the PGL group, representing a 25% reduction in our total workforce.
“We have taken this step to ensure that we can continue to provide life-changing school trips in the future,once travel restrictions are lifted. The passion and commitment of our team has always been a key part of providing memorable experiences for schools and we are sorry that it has been necessary to take this step.
“We would like to thank our colleagues for their patience and understanding at this difficult time.”
Now Guy Fawkes Night is past, it would usually be a six-week sprint to Christmas for a lot of companies.
But with a new lockdown in England and restrictions in the other UK countries continuing, it’s a mixed outlook for most to say the least.
One of the only things we can say with any certainty is that we’re always ready to speak to you if you get in touch with us.
An expert advisor will arrange your free virtual initial consultation for whenever is most convenient to discuss what issues your business is facing and how best to tackle them.
An important one for us is the publication of insolvency statistics.
In the swell of regular announcements and opinion columns, the actual numbers and facts help us determine exactly what’s going on with the economy as far as we can and why.
The Insolvency Service decided that they’d publish company insolvency data on a monthly basis alongside their regular quarterly bulletins so while it might seem like there’s an avalanche of analysis - it’s important and useful.
2020 hasn’t so much been a rollercoaster ride for company insolvencies as a log flume - only going downhill and fast.
The overall number of company insolvencies from July to September was 2,672 - which was down 9% on the previous quarter and down 39% on the same period of 2019.
When compared to Q3 2019, all types of company insolvencies have fallen although this is mainly due to the fall in Company Voluntary Liquidations (CVLs) which is by far the most common type of company insolvency accounting for 72% of all cases.
In addition to CVLs falling, compulsory liquidations were down by 58%, CVAs by 29% and administrations by 18%.
It’s hard to make concrete assumptions but the most likely explanation for these falls is the financial support available to companies during the pandemic which became available in March coupled with a suspension of statutory demands and winding-up petitions from late April until the end of 2020 under the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act.
The picture is more complicated when looking at the previous quarter of this year.
Overall company insolvencies have fallen and CVLs are down 17% but compulsory liquidations rose by 42% and CVAs by 34% - although as the numbers are relatively small, any rise in the number of cases would have a dramatic impact on percentages.
For example, there were 63 CVAs in Q3 2020 which itself is one of the lowest levels ever recorded but they are higher than the previous quarter total of 47 which itself was the lowest quarterly total since Q3 1993.
A compulsory liquidation can only take place following a winding-up order obtained through the court by a creditor, shareholder or director. HM Courts & Tribunals service has been running a vastly reduced service since March so this number has fallen greatly as a result.
Just over half of the compulsory liquidations carried out in Q3 2020 had a petition date in Q1. The Insolvency Service estimated that the recent increase in cases was due to petitions being resumed prior to the first national lockdown.
Administrations rose slightly in this quarter to 396 from 389 in the previous one and there was one administration - exactly the same number as Q2 2020 and Q3 2019.
Additionally two companies obtained an insolvency moratorium and one company had a restructuring plan sanctioned by the court. Both of these new procedures were created under the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act and the use of moratoriums is expected to increase in future reporting periods as more businesses take advantage of them.
When it came to the individual sectors of the economy, all saw a decline in insolvency rates in the 12 months ending in Q3 2020.
The areas that saw the most insolvencies in the 12-month period were construction (2,381); wholesale and retail trade (1,924) and accommodation and food services (1,797)
Although the effect on the hospitality industry of a second lockdown in their traditionally busiest period will be something to watch for in the next round of statistics.
Companies House also released some pertinent statistics last week - the incorporated companies numbers for Q3 2020 which provide a snapshot of the number of active companies in the UK in the past three months.
Like the suspension of winding-up petitions, there was a pause in the voluntary and compulsory strike-off process in April in order to give Covid-19 affected businesses sufficient time to update their records to avoid being struck off the register.
Voluntary strike-offs were resumed early in September so companies that applied to be struck-off or dissolved before July were included in the numbers.
By the end of September, there were 4,663,639 companies on the register with 221,020 new incorporations last quarter compared to 102,269 dissolutions.
This is a 30.2% rise in incorporations on Q3 2019 and the largest Q3 annual increase since 2012 when records began while dissolutions fell by 21.2% annually.
These figures are in contrast to the final significant statistics release this week which came from the Office of National Statistics ongoing Business Impact of Covid-19 (BICS) survey.
This is a fortnightly business survey which measures businesses’ responses on turnover, trade and other measures in this period.
Their latest bulletin has the striking headline finding that two-thirds of all UK businesses are at “low to severe” risk of insolvency. The underlying evidence showed that 64% of respondents are at risk of insolvency with 43% running on less than six months’ cash reserves.
This is on top of 14% of all UK businesses pausing trading due to local lockdown restrictions.
They rate the hospitality industry as the most vulnerable with 17% of all accommodations and food companies as trading at severe risk while a further 7% of all pubs, restaurants and hotels having zero cash reserves to support them.
Chris Horner, Insolvency Director with Business Rescue Expert, said: “The figures are always interesting taken separately although because of the time lag they are a little inexact - telling us where we were rather than where we are right now.
“One thing we do know for certain is that the current circumstances depressing overall company insolvencies is changing.
"Winding-up petitions are still limited but, other types of enforcement action are coming back online for creditors to use and the suspension on wrongful trading liability has also recently expired.
“Following the unwelcome Halloween surprise of a new national lockdown a lot of businesses will be hoping that there’ll be more financial support forthcoming than a month’s extension to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) Furlough scheme.
“They might be disappointed and looking at a minimum of four weeks with no income through no fault of their own.
“One action they can definitely take right now is to take professional advice on what their options are. Early action can help them put measures in place that will help secure their business so it can be on a stronger footing when it’s allowed to reopen.”
Get in touch with us today to see what we can do to help you and your company right now.
We can arrange a free initial virtual consultation to better understand your company’s situation right now.
Together we can then work on a realistic recovery or rescue plan which will aim to give your business the best chance of making it through 2020 and beyond.
A total of 11,120 chain store outlets closed between January and June while 5,119 opened. The net 6,001 closures is a record high and far higher than the loss of 3,509 for the same period in 2019.
The research from retail specialists The Local Data Company centered on all high streets, shopping centers and retail parks in England, Scotland and Wales and found that on average over 60 stores closed every day with 28 opening - a net daily loss of 32 stores.
The data doesn’t include outlets temporarily closed due to lockdown rules so figures could ultimately be higher if they don’t reopen.
The worst affected retail sectors were fashion, mobile phone and betting stores while the areas that saw the most closures were Greater London with 1,008 net closures followed by South East England and the North West.
The towns with the biggest decreases were York (55 net shop closures), Durham (43) and Corby (26).
Lucy Stainton, head of retail and strategic partnerships at the Local Data Company said: “The results from the first half of 2020 are a stark reminder of the challenges faced by retailers in the first six months of the year, which included a national lockdown.
“With each week that passes since retail and hospitality businesses were given the green light to reopen, the likelihood of these occupiers ever trading again in those units reduces.”
She added that 22% of chain stores still remain temporarily closed and that further restrictions including local lockdowns and 10pm curfews for hospitality businesses would continue to have “a devastating impact” on the sector with more closures likely after the make-or-break festive season ends.
The report urges more government stimulus highlighting further movement restrictions, the end of the furlough scheme on October 31st and for the hospitality sector, the end of VAT reductions and business rates relief in March 2021.
There have been so many canaries in the coal mine in 2020 that it would look something like an aviary.
The Local Data Company’s research shows the parlous state of the retail industry but other sectors such as hospitality are in just as dire straits with possibly worse to come.
The most frustrating part of the Coronavirus pandemic and response for directors and business owners is that it’s not your fault if you see your income plunge off a cliff edge.
It’s not your fault that customers are being told to stay away or risk fines or that you might have invested a lot in PPE and other essential equipment to allow you to operate but local or national lockdowns override this and you end up closing temporarily anyway.
None of it is your fault yet you’ve got to bear the consequences as well as you can.
If there’s a silver lining at all, it’s that the decisions facing you and your business should be crystallizing.
Which is where we can play a part in helping you to make the changes that will keep your business alive in one form or another in order to prosper again.
Get in touch with us today and we can arrange your free virtual consultation whenever you want it.
We can explore the circumstances you face and come up with an efficient and effective plan for your company to navigate these to give you the best chance of flourishing in the future.
Options such as administration, CVA’s or insolvency moratoriums sound official and intimidating but could be the keystone to success. Our knowledgeable and impartial advisors will give you the benefit of their years of experience and if there is a way to keep your business going then we’ll find it working together.
Even though the latest company insolvency figures are from September, it will be Halloween in a couple of weeks and one part of them reminds us of a popular horror movie trope.
The bit where a seemingly lifeless hand starts to twitch with faint movement before one or two of the fingers begin to recover feeling and move of their own accord.
There’s some movement within the figures that has been missing in previous months.
While nowhere near what the average figures for corporate insolvencies should be or have been at this stage of the year, it indicates that company insolvencies could finally begin their overdue and expected rise.
A total of 926 corporate insolvencies were recorded in September - a rise of 148 from last month although they’re still 39% down on the same period last year.
This number is made up of 742 Company Voluntary Liquidations (CVLs) (up from 586 last month); 44 Compulsory Liquidations (down from 66 last month); 109 administrations (down from 110 last month) and 31 Company Voluntary Administrations (CVAs) (up from 15 last month). There were no receiverships.
The biggest move percentage wise was from CVAs that were up more than 50% from the previous month and up 41% from September last year indicating that more companies are choosing this method to protect and restructure their businesses.
One thing to bear in mind however is that when dealing with a low number of cases even a small increase can lead to a distorted increase.
In other categories Company Insolvencies are down 39% from a year ago; compulsory liquidations are down 81%; administrations are down 31% and even though there were 156 more CVLs in September compared to August, they were still 32% down on the total from September 2019.
Another factor influencing the figures was the continuing temporary prohibitions on the use of statutory demands and certain winding-up petitions that began on April 27 were extended to 30th September under the terms of the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020.
They have subsequently been further extended to 31st December 2020 which will continue to depress the number of corporate insolvencies reported into next year.
The statistics also reported for the first time that two companies had successfully obtained an insolvency moratorium and another had a restructuring plan sanctioned by the court.
Both of these new procedures also came in with the new Corporate Insolvency Act.
The Insolvency Service said: “The low number of cases of each of these new legislative tools since the Act came into force is likely to be as a result of the range of Government support provided to companies including the range of temporary measures that have recently been extended.”
They are careful to avoid recording whether insolvencies are directly caused by the Covid-19 pandemic or subsequent public safety measures that have impacted business as they state it’s impossible to ascertain its direct effect on insolvency case numbers.
Chris Horner, Insolvency Director with Business Rescue Expert, said: “While overall corporate insolvency numbers are still down it’s interesting to see that CVA’s have doubled from their historically low base last month and CVLs have also increased.
“This is a recognition that despite the circumstances there’s some accessible and useful tools an insolvency practitioner can use to help rescue and restructure a business that can be viable under the right circumstances.
“2020 has been nothing like the right circumstances for a lot of otherwise good firms and through no fault of their own they’ve found themselves facing rising debts with either reduced or halted income.
“Government support has undoubtedly helped many of them keep their doors open but with an uncertain few months ahead, now is the time to start making alternative plans to survive before any more restrictive changes are announced and implemented within days.”
R3 President Colin Haig agrees. He said: “These results show that the toll the Covid-19 pandemic is taking on businesses and consumers may be starting to be felt in the official insolvency numbers.
“Despite the increases, today’s figures are still lower than pre-lockdown levels of insolvency and don’t fully reflect the health of businesses and the economy in the way they would normally.
“The situation remains worrying. The economy is still 9% below pre-pandemic levels, despite growth of 2.1% in August, which shows it has failed to fully recover from the significant contraction in April. We’ve also seen more big brands enter formal insolvency processes, or consider restructuring options, as the delay in returning to pre-pandemic conditions inevitably hampers trading.
“It’s likely that directors of businesses that would have remained profitable had COVID not happened and will see signs their businesses are struggling for the first time ever. We’d urge them to seek advice as soon as these signs appear. The earlier you seek advice, the greater the number of options you have to turn the situation around.”
Get in touch with us now to see what we can do to help you and your company right now.
The sooner you arrange your free initial virtual consultation, the sooner we can start working on a plan to secure your business and give it the best chance of recovery when conditions eventually become favourable again.
So much has happened in this time that it’s hard to keep track of everything so we’ll tell the story of six months in pictures…
The UK economy is 11.7% smaller than it was pre-lockdown, despite recovering some ground since April.
From Q2 (April to June), the economy contracted by a record 19.8% - almost a fifth.
By comparison the largest quarterly decline in the 2008 recession was 2.1%.
Almost all sectors, except pharmaceutical manufacturing, saw declines with the most precipitous coming from those that largely shut down due to coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
In the Hospitality sector, less than a quarter of businesses were actively trading between March and May and although there has been a recovery in all sectors, only retail sales are back above pre-pandemic levels.
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
A total of 32% of all eligible jobs - 9.6 million - were furloughed for at least some time between March and June as part of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).
Nearly half of younger workers were affected with 47% of employed 16-24 year olds being furloughed although this was skewed because they disproportionately work in the hospitality sector which had the greatest exposure.
The economic uncertainty surrounding lockdown and a potential second wave continues to hamper the employment numbers with companies holding off from recruiting.
Vacancies in all sectors are down with overall numbers down 50% on pre-pandemic levels.
There were 1.4 vacancies per 100 employee jobs in the three months up to August 2020, which is down 2.7 from the same period last year. This will lead to more competition for vacancies including more overqualified applicants applying than usual.
The Centre for Retail Research has crunched the numbers on the number of retail casualties this year and found that just over 13,000 store units had closed their shutters with the loss of just over a quarter of a million jobs as a result.
With three months of the year to go there is every probability that they will be higher than last years non-Covid afflicted figures of 16,000 closures and 143,128 lost positions. Store closures are 24.8% higher than they were at this stage in 2019.
If you’re a business owner or director you’ve probably been fighting your own battles this year so fiercely that you might not have time to take a step back and look outside to see how the war is going outside of your trench.
Not well - and with winter on the way even a bumper Christmas season, which is by no means certain, might not be enough to save some businesses.
With the ongoing threat of local lockdowns ready to be sprung anywhere in the country with only a few days notice, now is the time to make the changes that could save your business because December might be too late.
You can get in touch with us and arrange a free, virtual initial consultation with one of our expert advisors right now.
We can quickly analyse your businesses situation and your prospects and help you come up with a plan to save and secure your company if it’s viable.
Alternatively, it might be more advantageous to take a time out, look at restructuring the company’s debts to give it some breathing space and room to maneuver and begin 2021 with renewed drive and freedom to operate.
Whatever you decide - the sooner you get in touch, the more options you’ll have at your disposal and this year that could be the difference between having a business next year or not.