What other business stories have you missed recently?
As the weather turns colder, so do thoughts turn towards the warm memories and anticipation of the Christmas holiday period.
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.
The clothing and homeware retailer Joules has gone into administration.
Founded in 1989, the business has 132 stores across the UK employs 1,600 staff members who will be worrying about their immediate future but administrators are confident they can conduct a sale of the business as a going concern.
The business sought additional emergency investment but has been hit by a fall in consumer confidence and the subsequent cost of living crisis that has detrimentally affected the disposable income of their customers.
Company founder Tom Joule said: “This was a deeply disappointing day for Joules, and a sad day for me personally.”
Next were in discussions over taking a major stake but ultimately acquired the brand, website and intellectual property of Made.com in a prepack administration instead.
573 Made.com staff members were made redundant as part of the deal which saw the online furniture business fail to stem increasing losses caused by customers moving towards in-store buying habits once more.
CEO Nicola Thompson said: “I would like to sincerely apologise to everyone impacted as a result of the business going into administration.
“Over the past months we have fought tooth and nail to rapidly resize the cost base, reengineer the sourcing and stock model and try every possible avenue to raise fresh financing and avoid this outcome.
“Made is a much-loved brand that was highly successful and well adapted, over many years, to a world of low inflation, stable consumer demand, reliable and cost efficient global supply chains and limited geo-political volatility.
“That world vanished, the business could not survive in its current iteration, and we could not pivot fast enough. The brand will now continue under new owners. I hope that a reconfigured Made will prove to be sustainable and will continue to be loved by customers.”
One of the UK’s largest solar farm owners which owns 53 solar parks which provides a combined 513 megawatts across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, has gone into administration.
Toucan Energy Holdings appointed administrators following a scandal that saw the leader of Thurrock Council resign following a failed investment in Toucan with the council now becoming one of the main creditors.
The new leader of Thurrock Council said they supported the decision saying: “This is a positive move forward in enabling Thurrock council to resolve its financial position and maximise recovery for Thurrock residents. The solar farms held by Toucan continue to generate income and as the primary creditor Thurrock council will be able to seek to recover the value of investment.
“I am confident that the decision to place Toucan into administration is a significant step to reducing our overall debt.”
A spokesperson for the business said: “This is a significant portfolio of high-quality renewable generation assets which, as the UK accelerates its transition towards a green and renewable future, have an important role to play in the nation’s energy security strategy.
“The underlying solar park operations are not in administration and continue to operate as normal. The immediate priority is to put in place the stable platform at the top of the group which will reassure stakeholders that it is business-as-usual in the underlying operations.
“Given their significant underlying cash generation, we expect considerable interest.”
Discount chain Poundstretcher have announced that they have exited a two year Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) after repaying their creditors a total of £13 million of £100 million owed.
The largest creditors are HMRC and approx. 250 shop landlords. Management said that the CVA had enabled them to rebuild the business, reducing their total number of stores from 450 to 330 and working with retail specialists to get the best return from its shop and shelving layouts.
The CVA allowed the business to reset its cost base so that it was able to generate profits of between £22 to £28 million. Chief Executive Aziz Tayub said: “None of our suppliers were compromised – in fact we have so much stock now because of our strong relations with those suppliers.
“It’s not an easy time for customers but it’s not an easy time for businesses either. There are retailers out there with stock issues, but we have lots of good stock and our prices are good and now we just hope we aren’t affected by bad weather in the run up to Christmas.
“The CVA was a chance for the company to reset its liabilities, to grow again and to save 5,000 jobs. It was a chance for the company to prosper rather than throwing it on the scrap heap.”
In the six years we’ve been reporting insolvency news, we’ve never reported on a Castle going into liquidation but this is what happened in Nottingham.
The trust in charge of the ancient building and museum announced it was going into liquidation last week. The castle and all its grounds were then closed with immediate effect.
In a statement, the trust put the liquidation down to lower than expected visitor numbers, the lasting impact of Covid, the ongoing costs of living crisis and a threefold increase in its own bills.
It said: “This is a heartbreaking day for trustees, our staff, visitors and the city.
“Despite the immense dedication of staff and volunteers, the Castle is now closed to visitors.
“While visitor numbers have been improving, they have unfortunately remained highly unpredictable and significantly below forecasts, mirroring the difficulties seen across the whole cultural sector.
“The trust was simply not able to evolve quickly enough to survive the ongoing economic crisis as it enters its quietest trading period of the year.”
The local council have pledged to work with the liquidators and eventual new operators and reopen the castle to the public as soon as possible.
A major industrial baker based in South Wales has gone into administration with nearly 100 positions lost following an immediate site closure.
Garth Bakery was formed in 1983, nearly 40 years ago and produced more than 300,000 rolls a week for customers such as Asda, Tesco and Co-op.
A spokesperson for the business said: “It is extremely saddening to see such a long-established and important business for the local community close.
“The reasons why this situation occurred are still being explored, it’s probable that a variety of pressures including general price rises, have contributed to the closure.”
The solar shading specialist Levolux has fallen into administration less than three months after being sold by their former owners.
Levolux designed, manufactured and installed solar shading systems, architectural solutions and balconies that enhance buildings and reduce the impact of sunlight for their occupiers.
A spokesperson said: “Levolux has unfortunately been unable to navigate through the challenging headwinds that are currently impacting the construction sector. The priority now is to assist staff with their redundancy claims at a challenging time and ensuring an orderly wind down of the business to maximise returns for creditors.”
40 employees have been made redundant as a result.
An IT supplier to the government, UK Cloud and its parent – Virtual Infrastructure Group – have gone into liquidation.
UK Cloud had contracts with central and local governments, the police, the Ministry of Defence, the NHS, the University of Manchester, Genomics England and more.
Winding up orders were made against both UK Cloud and its parent company and the Official Receiver was appointed as liquidator.
An issued statement said: “The Official Receiver will wind-down the affairs of Virtual Infrastructure Group and UK Cloud in an orderly manner in accordance with statutory duties.
“The Official Receiver also has a duty to investigate the cause of the companies’ insolvency and the conduct of current and former directors. They will maintain operations whilst the liquidation strategy is being developed which will consider the provision of services, transition of contracts and whether a sale is viable.”
The Insolvency Service said: “The companies are in liquidation following the directors’ winding up petitions. The official receiver will investigate the cause of the companies’ insolvency in accordance with their duties.”
One of Wales’ oldest construction and property development firms – Jehu – have formally gone into administration with the loss of 103 positions. It is understood that the administrators will take steps to enter a creditors voluntary liquidation (CVL) as soon as possible.
The business was owned and run by the Jehu family and dated back four generations to the 1930s.
A spokesperson for the company said that its financial position had been adversely impacted by entering into fixed-price construction contracts prior to the pandemic with profit margins subsequently wiped out by high construction sector inflationary pressure.
The business had 15 live contracts for construction and development projects for housing associations and local authorities in Wales and South West England.
Directors and owners Marc and Simon Jehu said: “This is a truly devastating day for the business started by our grandfather over 85 years ago.
“Every possible option to keep the business alive has been completely exhausted and it is with desolate hearts that we find ourselves with no choice but to cease trading. We did everything possible to avoid closure, but we were fighting a battle that simply couldn’t be won due to the successive economic shocks of the past couple of years.
“Our thoughts are first and foremost with our devoted colleagues who have lost their jobs, many of whom have given more than 25 years of service. We would like to thank the loyal and steadfast clients and supply chain who supported us, often carrying the added burden of those who sought to capitalise on our difficulties.”
A Stoke-on-Trent based foundry has gone into liquidation with the loss of 15 jobs citing rising energy costs and being hit by Covid as the main reasons.
Taylormade Castings produced a range of metal products including fences and garden furniture.
The family-run business saw its sales fall during the two years of the pandemic and more recently saw its energy bills rise to “unmanageable” levels. The factory site which also contained a foundry, warehouse and offices was also struck by two fires last year which also had a negative impact on the company.
A spokesperson for the business said: “What happened to Taylormade Castings was partly down to Covid, as its turnover reduced during the pandemic but it was also due to the increase in electricity costs. It got to the point where it was just not able to pay those debts.”
One Life Funeral Planning
A Sheffield based funeral planning business has gone into administration this month.
One Life Funeral Planning (OLFP) had around 14,000 customers paying on a variety of funeral and cremation plans on a prepaid and payment by instalment basis.
The sector came under the regulation of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in 2022 and OLFP was one of a number of providers who were unsuccessful in obtaining FCA approval.
They would be allowed to continue to trade on a limited basis – fulfilling existing plans but unable to offer new ones until October while plans could be transferred to a new, authorised provider.
OFLP was unable to transfer all plans before the October deadline so went into administration which allows them to continue to transfer them for a limited period of time. Administrators will also be able to continue to collect instalment payments and arrange funerals in the event that customers die before transfers can be completed.
A spokesperson for the business said: “The news will be unsettling for the plan holders but we’re working closely with the FCA and the trustees to lessen the impact as far as possible and find the best solution for customers and will provide regular updates on progress.”
The adult education charity, Aspire Sussex, provided services in the county for over ten years but has been forced to go into administration due to the impact of Covid and the cost of living crisis putting 200 positions under threat.
Norman Boyland, chair of trustees at Aspire Sussex, said: “This is a deeply sad day for the provision of adult education to the residents of West Sussex, particularly those most vulnerable in our communities who we support.
“On behalf of the trustees, I would simply just like to say thank you to all our learners who we have had the pleasure of teaching, to our partners, and to the many staff and tutors who have provided first class training on behalf of Aspire Sussex over the last 10 years.”
They also highlighted the “crippling impact” of Covid-19 that caused the charity to spend thousands of pounds from its reserves when the numbers of users fell dramatically in 2020 and 2021.
Since then fewer students have returned because of rising costs across the economy making their position even more precarious.
WebBased, a popular Plymouth based tech company, has ceased trading after staff costs doubled following a series of Covid related problems.
The company’s main clients were local authorities for whom they provided ongoing training and booking services so they could then set up training events for teachers and social workers but this work dried up when councils stopped spending on these during the pandemic.
The business also had a high unpaid VAT bill and a new product was not ready in time for the 2022/23 school year so management were left with no option but to call in liquidators and arrange a creditors voluntary liquidation (CVL).
Forge Market Village
The largest indoor market in Glasgow – Market Village at the Parkhead Centre – has closed after the landlord went into liquidation leaving the immediate future of the 35 independent retailers who trade there in question.
The landlord, Geraud UK, operated other indoor markets across the UK whose future will also now be in doubt.
One trader said they had to empty their entire shop because they were not told if they would be able to access it after the announcement was made.
Traders with online shopfronts will continue to operate them but others will struggle to make alternative arrangements at one of the busiest shopping times of the year.
A Leicestershire based Gin distillery has closed and gone into administration.
Burleighs Gin has stopped taking orders and postponed all events and Gin Academy sessions at the distillery for the foreseeable future.
The brand supplied Gins to Leicester City FC, Leicester Tigers RFC, the National Forest, Smeg and the Royal British Legion.
Administrators confirm they are seeking buyers for the whole of the business and will make further updates after the period of interest is finished.
Elite Sports Group
The UK distributors for Danish sports brand Hummel have gone into administration.
Elite Sports Group supplied Hummel gear to many football clubs including Southampton, Millwall, Coventry City, Kilmarnock and several others leaving Christmas orders for replica kits and training wear in jeopardy for thousands of fans.
While several clubs run their own club shops, Elite did run the online and physical presence at Premier League Southampton so these will be closed until the immediate future of the business can be resolved.
A Swansea based e-liquid for vapes manufacturer has gone into administration due to Brexit related financial decisions by their clients.
Lumo Liquids formed in 2014 focusing on e-liquids and vape fillings. After a period of sustained growth and success, recently two major clients moved their manufacturing and supply chains to Europe losing the business 85% of their revenue at a stroke.
The resulting financial losses could not be replaced quickly enough so the directors have sought the advantage of a moratorium that administration brings in order to pursue an orderly sale of the business.
A spokesperson for the business said: “The core business, strong brands and production facilities are likely to be attractive to competitors and other interested parties. Accordingly, we continue to trade the business and we are actively seeking a buyer for all or part of the company’s business and assets.”
Optician Kitchens has given a notice of intention to appoint an administrator, following the redundancy of all their staff.
Nothing has gone into or out of the Kelvin Road, Greenbridge Industrial Estate since then and the google listing for the business in Swindon is marked as permanently closed.
In a statement provided to employees to let them know – seen by the Adver – Optiplan CEO Jason Limbert told them that there was no viable alternative.
He said: “Optiplan Kitchens Limited has faced numerous challenges since the outbreak of Covid-19. Initially, the complete cessation of its operations was followed by prolonged periods of showroom closures due to changing Covid restrictions. Post-Covid challenges in the supply chain have resulted in severe business disruption alongside rapidly escalating costs that the business has struggled to pass on to its customers quickly enough.
“Despite taking action to restructure the business in April this year, escalating utility costs and further material cost increases have eroded the benefits that were achieved from this.
“Given the ongoing economic challenges with seemingly no end in sight to the high levels of ongoing inflation, we have reached the conclusion that there is no viable alternative to this action.”
However there has been no official statement from the company.
Vivarail is the UK’s first business to design and build zero emission battery and hybrid battery trains. It holds a patent for its Fast Charge system, which is able to recharge a battery powered train in just ten minutes, which in early 2023 is set to replace Great Western Railway’s existing West Ealing – Greenford service.
However despite its exciting pipeline of growth opportunities they haven’t been able to attract new investors, leaving the Board no choice but to file for a Notice of Intention to appoint administrators with the courts on 23rd November 2022.
Steve McBride, managing director of Vivarail, explained: “The Board and I have worked incredibly hard to secure new investment in recent months, and although we have been encouraged by the level of interest, time is now against us to allow potential investors to step in. Combined with slow market conditions and delays in reaching certain key commercial arrangements we have had no choice but to file a Notice of Intention to appoint Administrators with the Courts.
“The next few weeks undoubtedly represents a degree of uncertainty for everyone connected to Vivarail, including our 70 employees who have shown incredible commitment and dedication to decarbonising our railway. During this time Management, the Board or Directors and our advisors will leave no stone unturned in finding a solution.
“We will now be consulting with our customers and other stakeholders to try and drive the business forwards, but we must be realistic in that if we are unable to deliver a rescue package Administration will unfortunately be inevitable.”
Christmas is coming…
While the upcoming Christmas trading period will be the busiest for years for many companies, 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.