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Business News

News from the Strawberry Line area, the Axbridge Chamber of Commerce and nearby chambers as well as Somerset and further afield.
For more business news visit www.harrymottram.co.uk and look under Strawberry Line Times.

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Beales finally falls into administration with fears for 1,300 jobs

The regional department store chain Beales founded in 1881 has slipped into administration putting the jobs of its 1,300 staff at risk.

If KPMG cannot find a buyer for all or part of the group of 22 stores then it could see another big name on the High Street disappear. Of course the firm has been in trouble before as in 2016 it secured a CVA to reduce rents on 11 of its stores. In October 2018 there was a management buy-out led by the CEO Tony Brown but a year later things looked bleak with KPMG appointed to make a strategic review.

Writing for the Retail Gazette website Elias Jahshan reported: “In the financial year to March 2019, the department store registered a loss of £3.1 million, up from £1.3 million for the year earlier. The poor trading was attributed to rising costs, including business rates, and a dip in sales. Last week, property consultancy firm Colliers International estimated that Beales paid £1.06 million more in business rates than it should have in the years since the revaluation of the commercial property tax scheme. Beales was a public company for two decades until its shares were delisted in 2015. It has since been owned by several different private investors.”

Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit said: “Department stores are supplied by a massive range of firms which is a big concern. From clothing to perfumes and from soft furnishings to shoes the stores also use printers, sign-makers, IT specialists, consultants of all types as well as couriers and hauliers. Potentially the fall out could be massive with the banks and the taxman at the head of the queue.

“ICSM Credit’s advice to members has been for some time to not allow any credit to the firm. Since the firm is in administration there’s little chance of outstanding invoices getting paid.”

ICSM Credit understands that some of the sites may be sold to rival stores but it is likely that most will close – whether this will be as a pre-pack remains to be seen.

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For more reviews, news and views on theatre and much else visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

Follow Harry on Facebook, Twitter as @harrythespiv, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn

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Winning multi million pound contracts didn’t save company

Construction firm’s Christmas collapse leaves contractors in the lurch

A workforce of 200 at Manchester based Bardsley Construction Limited were laid off on December 19, last year when the company called in administrators leaving building projects unfinished.

And the collapse of the company has also left suppliers and contractors with unpaid invoices totally many thousands of pounds.

In a letter posted on the firm’s website the administrators gave the bad news. It reads: “Steven Muncaster and Stephen Clancy, both managing directors of Duff & Phelps Ltd., were appointed Joint Administrators of Bardsley Construction Limited (“the Company”) on 19 December 2019.

“The Company has ceased to trade whilst the Joint Administrators undertake an urgent review of the financial position of the Company whilst marketing the business and assets of the Company for sale.

“Please be advised that Steven Muncaster and Stephen Clancy were also appointed as Joint Administrators of the non-trading group companies, Bardsley Group Limited and Bardsley Construction Holdings Limited, on the same date i.e. 19th December 2019.”

Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit said the construction industry was taking a hit during the country’s current economic slowdown as projects are curtailed and workers laid off. He said: “In our regular newsletter I’ve seen a huge rise in the numbers of building firms go to the wall. It’s very concerning but our members stay in the loop to avoid suffering losses from another Carillion.”

Steven Robson for the Manchester Evening News said Bardsley Construction was founded by joiner Roland Bardsley in 1964 had experienced cash flow problems caused by late payments despite winning an £11m contract for Tameside College in Ashton-under-Lyme last year. There was the £16m contract for the StayCity Aparthotel, New Cross, due to be completed in January 2020 and the Burnage Lane homes for Southway Housing Trust worth £8m along with several other projects on their books.

However Dave Rogers of Building News said: “”Stockport contractor Goodwin Construction has brought in a dozen former employees of collapsed contractor Bardsley to take staff numbers at the firm up to the 50 mark.”

Meanwhile contractors and creditors await the report from the administrators to discover whether they will be able to receive any of their cash or even if the company can be relaunched or a buyer can be found.

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

Pic: Building News

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Mondi shuts up shop in two UK site as crisis deepens

The trade press are reporting on the collapse of Mondi’s operation in the UK with the news the packaging company is to close its two remaining plants in this country.

Richard Stuart-Turner writing for Print Week said 208 jobs were at risk their plants at Deeside Industrial Park in Flintshire and its Nelson, Lancashire site by the second half of 2020. He said: “While the factory closures would put an end to Mondi’s manufacturing in the UK, the business said it remains open to consider future opportunities “as and when they arise” in support of its strategic objectives.”

Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit said: “It’s been an open secret in the business that this was on the cards as Mondi have cut their losses and looked to concentrate operations on the Continent. ICSM associates have noted some of the issues regarding the company for some weeks.”

The question is whether the closures are to do with the management of the firm is the issue, Brexit and the move to consolidate business in Europe or the overall decline in some aspects of the packaging industry due to a stagnant economy.

Packaging News’ Waqa Qureshi writing on the website reported: “Last October Mondi’s share price fell to their lowest level in almost three years as the paper and packaging giant reported softer paper demand and lower prices had hit its third-quarter revenue. Both affected plants create bags, pouches and laminates for the consumer industry.

“A ‘change in demand for the niche products’ was cited as the reason for the decline in business at the sites, and a 45-day consultation process is expected to begin imminently.

“Mondi closed its Scunthorpe flexible packaging site in May 201, although it has made significant investment in other European operations, including a €30m investment on a corrugated plant in Germany and a substantial investment at a Polish plant.”  

The firm’s chief executive Peter Oswald is to quit in March while the company still has 26,000 employees at around 100 production sites across more than 30 countries in Europe, Russia, North America and South Africa.

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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Trade creditors (including the cleaners) of Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurants to get nothing (but he opens new outlets in the Far East and is still worth £100m)

Despite opening new restaurants this winter in south east Asia TV chef Jamie Oliver won’t have to pay most of the £83m in debts from his failed Jamie’s Italian outlets.

Administrators KPMG said there would a shortfall meaning the 288 trade creditors such as food ingredient suppliers and even the cleaners will get next to nothing or indeed nothing. They include window cleaners who are owed £90, while the cleaners are left with unpaid invoices of £4,471 and the distribution firm Brakes is owed an eye-watering £850,000.

While staff should get paid eventually the landlords such as councils and shopping centres are unlikely to be paid despite Jamie Oliver being thought to be worth around £100m due to his TV and publishing work. His chain of Italian restaurants crashed last May but he still operates 70 restaurants abroad and plans to open more this year under the brand name of Jamie Oliver’s Kitchen.

Despite his clean-cut honest John persona Jamie Oliver has a history of financial irresponsibility. His empire closed 12 of its sites in 2018 under a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) and he failed to pay the suppliers to his steak house Piccadilly Barbecoa when that crashed the same year. He formed a firm that bought out the steak house without having to pay the creditors of the old business. Last year all but three of the remaining Italian restaurants closed throwing 1,000 people out of work leaving the ones at Gatwick airport open. Ironically because Gatwick were owed over £1m in rent when the chain collapsed.

There is some poetic justice in the former Jamie’s Italian restaurant in Guildford, Surrey, as it is set to become a McDonalds.

Restaurants have been closing at the rate of more than 15 a week as the public tighten their belts and habits change. It’s led to a 25% rise in restaurant insolvencies year on year as the sector takes a hit in straightened economic times.

Julie Palmer, partner at Begbies Traynor Begbies, said that it’s not just belt tightening that is hitting the casual dining sector.

She said: “A tightening of consumer’s belts has not helped as disposable income has decreased, while the rise of courier services such as Uber Eats and Just Eat is giving cheaper, more convenient options delivered straight to the door.”

Sophie Witts writing in Big Hospitality said in London landlords are increasingly nervous about offering long leases to restaurants due to the number of closures. She also highlighted the rise of the pop-up restaurant and an increasing number of so-called street food vendors as tastes and habits changed. Prezzo closed 94 outlets last March, Chimichanga axed 33 restaurants and Carluccio’s shut 34 of its restaurants following a CVA while Eat closed ten of its outlets last year although it did open a new one at Madrid airport.

Around 1,400 restaurants became insolvent in the UK in the last financial year and it’s not just the big chains who are suffering with the independents hit as well. It suggests a major shake-up in the industry is underway caused by economic uncertainty, changing habits and saturation.

A large number of restaurants and those in the hospitality industry are members of ICSM Credit which helps to protect them from collapsing firms said Ian Carrotte. He added: “We get news of problems from suppliers in the hospitality business who pass on credit intelligence about firms in trouble. It’s often the largest chains in hospitality that cause problems as people believe that because they are a famous name they are safe. That is clearly not the case in any industry which is why credit intelligence is vital.”

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers or simply subscribe to the FREE newsletter. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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The inglorious 12th of January when retail liquidations begin

Flog as much as possible from Black Friday to Christmas and the Boxing day and New Year’s sales and then shut up shop while there’s cash in the till.

It may seem a crude statement but it is a truism that is not unknown in the retail and hospitality industries when consumers commit themselves to an annual spend. But by mid-January when the consumers have spent all their cash and are waiting for payday at the end of the month the boom in sales is over. Hence the inglorious twelfth of January when some retailers may be tempted to call it a day and cut their losses. This month the department store Beale’s chief executive Tony Brown said administration could lead to a restructuring of the firm implying that some of the 22 stores would close although without a buyer the department store may not survive.

This time last year Greenwoods menswear called in the administrators, as did Mahabis, Hardy Amies, Odd Bins and Bennetts while this January Debenhams and HMV are closing loss making stores and Mothercare has closed for good. For many firms in the service and manufacturing sectors the first quarter can be a boom period after the two-week shut down over Christmas and the winding down of many offices in the two or three weeks ahead of the festive period. It depends on the nature of each business sector. Clearly seaside and holiday resorts look to their golden quarters of May to September when good weather combined with school holidays gives a boost to trade while garden centres and DIY stores tend to look to the spring and summer for strong fiscal performances as householders get to work in their gardens as well as sprucing up their properties.

Looking at the statistics overall there isn’t one period when firms go bust more than others – even in the so-called golden quarter the rates of insolvencies are not much different from the other months. It is another truism that firms who rely on a good summer may well call it a day in the autumn after the schools reopen in September but there’s only anecdotal evidence to support this idea while others shut up shop before the end of their financial year.

Statistics do bare out one undeniable factor and that is when the economy does well liquidations fall while when it does badly business failures spike. As we enter 2020 there’s concern that company collapses will rise due to the stagnant state of the economy. In fact 2019 has been the worst for five years with the present trend threatening to mirror the credit crunch of 2007-8. Hopefully that won’t happen but for retailers the present decline in the high street is threatening to make every month this year have an inglorious twelfth.

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

Pic: Heart. Ladies Night at Beales in Bournmouth

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Flybe and Beales on the brink of administration

Two of the nation’s under pressure business sectors have been showing signs of economic stress in the last two years as shoppers forsake the high street and the airline market becomes saturated.

Flybe have been reported by Sky News to be in trouble although the firm has denied reports of problems. Last year the troubled low-cost airline was bought by a consortium including Virgin Atlantic and the Stobart Group to save it from collapse for just £2.2m. The consortium has ploughed in tens of millions of pounds to turn it around but it seems Flybe remains in trouble.

Meanwhile on the high street the latest department store chain to hit the buffers is Beales with its 22 stores and 1,000 employees. The firm has implied it may enter administration in order to find a buyer or buyers and to in effect off load debts, loss making stores and costs possibly through a pre-pack. Founded in 1881 it is the latest big store to find the combination of business rates, rents and the public’s fondness for internet shopping to stifle trade.

The concern for suppliers and creditors is the amount of unpaid invoices Beales could dump in administration. Anything from printers, sign-makers, hauliers, clothing and accessory suppliers and shop fitters could end up out of pocket with some even forced out of business.

Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit said members of the credit intelligence group had raised concerns over Beales in the last few weeks. He said: “It’s the sheer number of suppliers who could be hit that is the worry. Just because Beales have traded since the 18th century doesn’t mean they are infallible. Tight credit control is the key and if a big name customer demands payment of more than 30 days after always paying regularly then you must be suspicious and insist on keeping your terms of credit.”

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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Finance Director loses £280,000 after print firm’s demise

Established in the dying days of Victorian England the printing company Latimer Trend and Company was founded producing leaflets, flyers, periodicals and stationery for customers in the British Empire. Some 130 years later the company as had the excruciating humiliation of going bust in a very 21st century way owing somewhere north of £4.5m.

The workforce of 80 were unceremoniously ‘let go’ with unpaid salaries and bonuses to the tune of more than half a million pounds.

Jo Francis writing for the trade magazine Print Week highlighted the state of play for the unsecured creditors following the collapse followed by administrators Sandra Mundy and Thomas Russell of James Cowper Kreston taking charge and going through the books.

She reported: “The administrators’ report states that secured creditors included Close Brothers Asset Finance and RBS Invoice Finance. RBS will receive payment in full-from the book debts, after existing orders for two major publishing customers were completed during the administration moratorium.”

Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit said the whole affair was a sorry story that had become all too common. He said: “We have been aware of the ongoing crisis at Latimer Trend and our thoughts go to the staff who have lost their jobs and everyone who tried to save the historic business. Sadly when debts pile up they become a burden and with the changing nature of the printing industry and a general downturn in business it created a perfect storm.”

The list of creditors makes for eye watering reading with the Close Brothers owed £3m, the finance director £380,000, HMRC £230,00 and unsecured creditors more than £3m.

Ian Carrotte dismissed the notion put out by the firm last Ocotber that Brexit was the reason for the slide into administration – somthing that was widely reported at the time. He said a combination of factors had led to the collapse but Brexit couldn’t be used as an excuse.

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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OMG It’s the first week of January and another print firm goes bust: CPG Brand Communications reported as latest industry casualty

If 2019 seemed bad for the print industry then 2020 could be even worse with some forecasters suggesting a recession is just around the corner.

Where you believe them or not there is no denying that the number of print firms going to the wall has increased in recent months with the latest being Tonbridge-based CPG Brand Communications registered at Colour Print Limited.

The firm fell into administration this week according to Print Week’s Hannah Jordan.

She wrote: “Sources close to the firm said staff were informed on 16 December that it was being placed in administration and that no salaries would be paid for the Christmas month. Colour Print was still listed as active at the time of writing with one remaining director, Craig Prince, who was appointed a director in May 2018. 

“Meanwhile, four other directorships have been terminated at the firm over the past four months including Terry Hewett on 27 September, Richard Gerald Husband on 27 November, Paul Anthony Duckworth on 30 November and group sales director Steve Kirkham on 6 December. Hewett, Husband and Kirkham were all appointed on 4 Sept last year while Duckworth was appointed on 19 December 2018.”

For the full story visit https://www.printweek.com/news/article/cpg-administration-confirmed

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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Year closes on rogue businessman who went on trading after ban by Insolvency Service

The year 2019 has closed on a sorry chapter of dishonest trading by the business man Neill Stuart Malcolm John whose firms were wound up by the Insolvency Service.

John, along with his then partner Clair Hunnisett, became known as the Bonnie and Clyde of the print industry as they took online orders in cash from self-publishers but failed to deliver any printed books. They used the names of Printed Books Ltd, Book Printer UK, The Printing Press and UK, Litho Printing Limited and similar sounding firms.

Despite being banned in May in court in Manchester John continued to set up new websites offering discounts to aspiring publishers with near identical websites trading under the names of Book World Ltd and Hardback Printer Limited. The court wound them up in September in the public interest.

Writing on Print Week’s website in October Jo Francis said: “The court heard a familiar tale regarding the mode of operation of Book World, which attracted customers – often self-publishers – by offering cheap prices and then outsourced the printing, mainly to printers based in Eastern Europe. The registered addresses of the two firms were in London, but the Insolvency Service found they were in reality virtual office providers and the companies actually operated from Barry, in South Wales.”

In a statement, Insolvency Service chief investigator Helen Cosgrove said: “Many of the companies’ victims were everyday consumers looking for a good price to get their work published as they didn’t have the support of a big publishing house behind them. However, investigations clearly proved Book World had no interest in serving their clients and provided shoddy levels of output, while Hardback Printer was all set-up to do exactly the same. We are pleased the courts recognised this and have shut down their activities to prevent further people from becoming victims.”

Although the duo fleeced hundreds of people of their cash with a promise of printed books they also ordered print from some UK firms but others from Europe including Turkey, Ukraine and the Baltic nations. Some of their customers received their books – although usually in an unsatisfactory condition – but the print firms rarely if ever got paid with some left with large unpaid invoices to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds.

At this point the story one would hope would come to an end and John would hopefully return to his original vocation that of a high pressure salesman. However a tip-off from one of his victims this week has noted he’s changed his name again to Neill St John and has apparently got married in a lavish ceremony – not to his long term partner Clair Hunnisett – but to events company manager Krystal St John.

ICSM Credit’s Ian Carrotte said: “We have been warning members of this man for more than two years as he has left print companies in this country with unpaid invoices. He has also taken hundreds of thousands of pounds off members of the public. My fear is under a new name he will again begin trading and targetting the unknowing public and trusting businesses.”

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

Picture: Ian Malcolm Stuart John’s new Facebook profile image although he now calls himelf Ian St John – not to be confused with the Scottish footballer

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President George W. Bush signs the Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002 PHOTO DOUG MILLS ASSOCIATED PRESS

Calls for a UK Sarbanes-Oxley law to end the scandal of botched audits

Business journalist Harry Mottram says it is time directors and auditors were held accountable for company audits which fail to spot imminent collapses costing creditors and workers billions of pounds and bringing the process into disrepute.

Recent disasters like Thomas Cook and Carillion that crashed leaving thousands high and dry despite having been audited weeks before shows this country needs a law along the lines of Sarbanes-Oxley passed in the USA.

Under George W Bush’s presidency in 2002 the Sarbanes-Oxley bill to make auditing accountants and directors more accountable was introduced by Senator Paul Sarbanes and Representative Michael Oxley. The bill quickly became abbreviated as SOX and aimed to prevent the disasters of Enron and Worldcom. Those accounting scandals cost investors billions of dollars when the share prices of affected companies collapsed, and shook public confidence in the US securities markets.  

Similarly in this country suppliers, customers and those who worked for Thomas Cook and Carillion and many other defunct outfits lost billions of pounds bringing auditing processes into disrepute and raising questions over how the big four accountancy firms of Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG, and PricewaterhouseCoopers operate.The criticism is that the directors, financial managers and those charged with auditing the firms walk away from the mess without being held to account. Yes, parliamentary committees can summon them to explain themselves and the administrators can point to the causes of a collapse and name names but essentially they are free to go.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday, December 17, 2019, Dominic O’Connell raised the matter as he said there could be a move in January to introduce a similar scheme to make company directors personally responsible for their accounts.

Michelle Hinchcliff of KPMG discussed the idea with Dominic. She said: “The first review into it was by Sir John Kingman which looked at the role of the regulator and the next review is by Sir Donald Bryden whose report will be released in the second week of January. That is looking at the audit product.”

She agreed that a SOX law could work in this country but it wouldn’t be the same as the one in the USA as their system is ‘rules based’ while ours is ‘principles based.’ Dominic O’Connell said initially the USA firms disliked the new system as it created a huge amount of extra work but it has now been accepted as part of the auditing process and financial governance. Michelle Hinchcliff said the current system of auditing was too black and white and tended to look backwards implying that future trends were not being spotted. This could explain why a firm’s books appear to be fine but potential issues of over-reaching themselves in the future or repaying historic debt are missed.

The Independent Review into the Quality and Effectiveness of the UK Audit Market, led by Sir Donald Brydon was commissioned by the Government in response to a perceived widening of the “audit expectations gap”  the difference between what users expect an audit to deliver, and what auditors’ responsibilities actually entail.

With thousands of jobs lost with company collapses like BHS clearly something needs to be done and done quickly. A British version of SOX is needed to prevent the erosion of trust – something that KPMG’s Michelle Hinchcliff agrees with. She said: “I believe there’s absolute value in a British version of SOX but I don’t think it should be an exact replica of what’s in the US.”

She added that there’s a lot of support for a UK version of SOX from audit committee chairs.

ICSM Credit would like to see Sir Donald Brydon’s report bring in a UK SOX as it could protect suppliers who invoice large firms and as creditors rarely see any payment when a major company goes bust. The proprietor of ICSM Credit Ian Carrotte said that only this summer members of ICSM were desperately trying to get settlement of their accounts with Thomas Cook as the firm slid towards its September crash.

“It was an open secret the travel firm was in trouble,” he said, “as invoices were not being paid to several companies. We encouraged suppliers to chase hard for payment despite the company’s assurances. The audit this year should have brought confidence, but instead it did the opposite. A SOX in the UK can only be a positive move and hopefully will bring some reforms to the auditing process.”

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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Hundreds of small businesses hit by huge bills from company ‘linked to a scam’

Media company goes bust – but the bills keep coming for its customers

When Northern Ireland firm Viewble Media UK Ltd went bust last June its customers had expected that it would be the end of a sorry chapter in which they paid large amounts of money for advertising screens in their businesses. Sadly that was not the case as an Australian firm called Rhino Media Group (RMG) picked up the clients from Viewble’s directors for an undisclosed sum in June and continued to bill around 1,500 companies across the UK due to legal small print in the original contracts.

Peter Coulter of the BBC said: “Business owners signed a three-year deal, in which they agreed to pay £299 a month on the understanding they would be compensated by the sale of adverts for other businesses. The paperwork was completed for the business owners; in most cases they just had to give a digital signature on an iPad.

“Affected businesses have told BBC News NI they did not realise that as part of the paperwork they had signed, they had agreed to finance deals worth almost £11,000 per screen, which they would have to pay regardless of whether they were making any money from ad sales. Finance was arranged on behalf of the business owners, many of whom were unaware of the small print in the contract pointing out they would be liable if anything went wrong. Most businesses did initially receive some payments from the advertising, but these stopped when Viewble Media collapsed in June.”

BBC Northern Ireland reported that RMG took over Viewble’s office in Bangor, County Down, retained some of its staff, and said it would start to pay businesses back. However they said RMG has contacted its customers saying it will no longer be able to make the repayments unless it manages to sell any more ads.

Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit said this was a classic case of firms signing up to something without first checking out the background to the directors and the company itself – something ICSM members can do automatically.

He said: “We heard about this company through members who had come across stories about the linked firm in Australia. Associates ran credit checks on the firm and its directors and that’s when alarm bells began to ring. You should never sign up to a contract on an i-Pad like this.”

Peter Coulter of BBC Northern Ireland said: “Customers can no longer contact RMG, which has laid off all its staff and closed its Bangor office. Businesses upset about the finance deals have asked for help with repayments – but the contracts appear to be legally binding. Some businesses have cancelled their direct debits, while others have appointed solicitors to review the terms of their agreements.”

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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Year closes on rogue businessman who went on trading after ban by Insolvency Service

The year 2019 has closed on a sorry chapter of dishonest trading by the business man Neill Stuart Malcolm John whose firms were wound up by the Insolvency Service.

John, along with his then partner Clair Hunnisett, became known as the Bonnie and Clyde of the print industry as they took online orders in cash from self-publishers but failed to deliver any printed books. They used the names of Printed Books Ltd, Book Printer UK, The Printing Press and UK, Litho Printing Limited and similar sounding firms.

Despite being banned in May in court in Manchester John continued to set up new websites offering discounts to aspiring publishers with near identical websites trading under the names of Book World Ltd and Hardback Printer Limited. The court wound them up in September in the public interest.

Writing on Print Week’s website in October Jo Francis said: “The court heard a familiar tale regarding the mode of operation of Book World, which attracted customers – often self-publishers – by offering cheap prices and then outsourced the printing, mainly to printers based in Eastern Europe. The registered addresses of the two firms were in London, but the Insolvency Service found they were in reality virtual office providers and the companies actually operated from Barry, in South Wales.”

In a statement, Insolvency Service chief investigator Helen Cosgrove said: “Many of the companies’ victims were everyday consumers looking for a good price to get their work published as they didn’t have the support of a big publishing house behind them. However, investigations clearly proved Book World had no interest in serving their clients and provided shoddy levels of output, while Hardback Printer was all set-up to do exactly the same. We are pleased the courts recognised this and have shut down their activities to prevent further people from becoming victims.”

Although the duo fleeced hundreds of people of their cash with a promise of printed books they also ordered print from some UK firms but others from Europe including Turkey, Ukraine and the Baltic nations. Some of their customers received their books – although usually in an unsatisfactory condition – but the print firms rarely if ever got paid with some left with large unpaid invoices to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds.

At this point the story one would hope would come to an end and John would hopefully return to his original vocation that of a high pressure salesman. However a tip-off from one of his victims this week has noted he’s changed his name again to Neill St John and has apparently got married in a lavish ceremony – not to his long term partner Clair Hunnisett – but to events company manager Krystal St John.

ICSM Credit’s Ian Carrotte said: “We have been warning members of this man for more than two years as he has left print companies in this country with unpaid invoices. He has also taken hundreds of thousands of pounds off members of the public. My fear is under a new name he will again begin trading and targetting the unknowing public and trusting businesses.”

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

Picture: Ian Malcolm Stuart John’s new Facebook profile image although he now calls himelf Ian St John – not to be confused with the Scottish footballer

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The Stables Business Park joins the Axbridge Chamber of Commerce

Back in the day the axbridge Rural District Council covered a vast area including Rooksbridge, Stone Allerton and Shipham amongst other Somerset villages. The postal area still includes these areas while the proactive Axbridge Chamber of Commerce has members across the area.

The latest to join is The Stables Business Park. Tom Dalley of the park said its links and location are the key for its success. It  lies off the A38 in Rooksbridge about two miles from the M5, 25 minutes from Bristol Airport and only minutes from railways stations at Highbridge and Worle.

Tenants are many and varied and are from all corners of the spectrum, we have a National Plant Franchise Company, NFU & NFU Mutual, Building Contractors, Surveyors, Air Control company,  Business Support Services and many others, up to a baker’s dozen in total. Up until a few years ago we also had a National Hunt and Flat racing yard as an integral part of the entire complex.

To join the Axbridge Chamber of Commerce email the chairman
Louise Cooling at info@ripleyantiques.co.uk or contact Ripley Antiques on Axbridge Square.

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Mike House set for new challenge in 2020 as NFU Mutual man departs

Margaret Thatcher was prime minister and Yazz and the Plastic Population were top of the charts when Mike House joined NFU Mutual back in 1988.

After 32 years as an Agent for the company he’s retiring and moving on in 2020 to work with the NFU Poultry Group in the South West representing and protecting the interests of its sector members. However He won’t be far away as he’ll be working from home and from near Frome – and he’s already been working on the poultry sector alongside his work in NFU Mutual.

Mike initially worked from the Weston-super-Mare offices when he first joined but in 2007 with business increasing the NFU Mutual moved to the Forge on the Stables Business Park. Two years later the offices were too small so to accommodate them Tom Dalley of the park had The Granary especially prepared for Mike and company.

Brought up on a Somerset dairy farm, Mike has a BSC (Hons) degree in Agriculture and with his long experience has an inside knowledge of all aspects of insurance and specialises in farming and business protection. 

Mike said the main changes in his time with the NFU Mutual had been rationisation in the farming industry. In his role as an NFU Secretary he said: “The development of farm assurance has improved food hygiene giving it an edge over its competitors. There’s been changes in the way the farming industry is managed but Somerset is a grass growing county and so it will always feature livestock farming. The Levels in particular are ideal pasture for beef and dairy.”

Tom Dalley of the Stables Business Park said it was sad to see Mike depart but on behalf of everyone at the Rooksbridge site wished him well in the future.

To contact Mike House call his mobile on 07747 763023.

To contact NFU Mutual at Rooksbridge call 01934 806890 or visit https://www.nfumutual.co.uk/agent-offices/rooksbridge/?utm_source=gbl&utm_medium=organic

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‘I didn’t want to be on an industrial trading estate’ – Becky Hill of Solutions 42

Training, performance improvement and strategic advice company Solutions 42 moved to the Stables Business Park in Rooksbridge six years ago.

“There were several reasons I chose The Stables Business Park,” said Becky Hill of the firm, “I was looking for a place that didn’t look like a bland set of offices.

“Secondly I really connected with the landlord Tom Dalley, and the fact that he emits quality in what he does and the environment he provides at the business park.

“The offices are nicely appointed with attractive gardens where people can have a break and sit out in the summer to have their lunch. The gardens are somewhere where people from different businesses can gather and even have a little bit of a community spirit. And Tom’s even had barbeques in the gardens.”

She said another factor was the short distance from the M5 and A38 as well as the airport and train stations.

“I can get up to Bristol in just over 30 minutes,” she said, “and the airport in 20 minutes – and yet we are in a rural setting and not an industrial trading estate.”

There is a short video on Becky Hill and the Stables Business Park at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XB4iqfzPMqQ&t=2s

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Online firms like Amazon blamed for demise of book company

With only days before Christmas the book retailer The Book People has fallen into administration with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) taking on the task of finding a buyer or company rescue.

However the retailer who sells £50m of books, toys, stationery and gifts annually and employs 393 staff will continue trading for the time being said PwC.

Toby Underwood, of PwC said: “I appreciate the obvious concerns that staff in particular will have as we move towards Christmas. Whilst the administrators have funding to meet the payroll for December, the longer-term prospects for the business, staff, customers and suppliers will clearly be dependent upon whether a sale can be secured.”

Founded in 1988 in Godalming, Surrey, The Book People is owned by the private equity firm Endless since 2014, had sales of £71.5m in 2017, but since then profits have fallen from £6.2m the previous year to just £1.1m. Crucially the company had more than £33m of debts at the time which will have eaten into their profitability.

Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit said concerns had been raised for some time by ICSM members. This morning Sky News’s Mark Kleinman reported the firm was in trouble. He wrote: “Sources said that the accountancy firm had been overseeing an auction of The Book People in recent weeks as Endless tried to secure a buyer. They added that a number of ‘credible’ parties had expressed an interest in a deal.”

The proprietor of ICSM Credit said although book sales are holding up in general competition from supermarkets and online retailers had cut into the traditional publishing market and was ‘a sign of the times.’

The company initially began as a one man band with a van leaving books on a sale or return basis in offices in Surrey but within two years the operation had 140 distributors and by 1998 had an online store and a mail-order catalogue. Offices were opened in Haydock and a warehouse opened in Bangor as the company peeked with 600 staff just three years ago. In September 2014, Endless LLP, a UK-based equity investor, backed a management buy-out of the company.

PwC have confirmed that all orders for Christmas will be honoured, the staff will continue being paid while the firm will continue trading for the time being.

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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The pop-up theatre

Actors left unpaid as theatre company goes bust blaming Brexit and er… low audience numbers at the Blenheim Palace venue this summer

Parent company Lunchbox Theatrical Productions also goes pop

Shakespeare and his fellow actors once dismantled a theatre and rebuilt it timber by timber on a new site in London after a dispute with their landlord. It was the original moonlight flit – and kept the theatre company trading from a new address.

The Bard may not have been so impressed by the collapse of a theatre company last month that used his name to market their productions. Administrators Auker Rhodes have been called in to Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre Limited in York when their two pop-up theatres collapsed in financial ruins due to trading difficulties.

The Oxford Mail reported locals thought the tickets were expensive

The parent company Lunchbox Theatrical Productions has also gone into administration due to Brexit uncertainties they said along with low audience figures with administrators appointed on October 18, 2019.

They ran two pop-up Shakespearean theatres in York and at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, while Lunchbox also ran a number of ice-themed events such as Peter Pan on Ice.

Equity steps in to support actors

The Stage has reported that creditors include the actors and support staff at the pop-up theatres. They said: “Equity is now supporting 76 members and said it has helped to collate amounts that performers claim to be owed, currently totalling £15,000, and submitted them to liquidators. According to the union, there were around 90 performers, stage management and creative team roles across both sites.”

The BBC reported: “In 2018, the York pop-up attracted 78,000 visitors, but only 47,000 in 2019. About 38,000 visited the theatre at Blenheim Palace instead of the 75,000 the company expected.”

ICSM Credit’s Ian Carrotte said: “Hopefully the administrators will be able to reimburse the staff and actors of owed wages plus expenses and interest. For the company to blame the closure on Brexit is laughable. Clearly, they didn’t sell enough tickets.”

LunchBox’s chief executive James Cundall was awarded an MBE in 2018 for services to the entertainment industry.

Workers left out of pocket by firms that fail to pay redundancy money or back wages can claim a statutory amount from the Government. Visit https://www.gov.uk/claim-redundancy

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

For more visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

Follow Harry on twitter as @harrythespiv also on FaceBook, LinkedIn, YouTube and on Instagram

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HARRY MOTTRAM FREELANCE FEATURES: Curse of the phoenix firms who rip off their suppliers by closing down and reopening under a slightly different name – all in ICSM News Issue 1

Issue one of ICSM News is out – written and designed by Harry Mottram. It covers the rise of phoenix firms – those who us legal methods to dump their debts and reopen under a slightly different name. There’s also a listing of the many firms who have gone bust this autumn, notes on liquidations and how debt collectors try to recover lost money for individuals and small businesses. There’s much more on this subject at https://www.icsmcredit.com/index.htm and at
http://www.harrymottram.co.uk/creative-services/insolvency-and-business-failure-news
/

For more features, news, views and reviews visit www.harrymottram.co.uk and follow Harry on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and God knows where else.

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Clintons are in talks with their landlords according to weekend reports

Clintons on the brink as talks open with landlords to save greeting card giant from collapse

A potential blow for the paper, card, envelope and printing industries has been announced with the news Clintons (formerly Clinton Cards) are seeking survival talks with their landlords with possibility of a CVA to save it.

Founded in 1968 by Don Lewin the High Street greetings card store known for its wrapping paper, Christmas and festive decorations and soft toys and gifts is on the brink of collapse according to weekend reports.

The BBC said: “The retailer, which has about 2,500 staff, is in restructuring talks with landlords in another sign of the High Street crisis. A spokeswoman told the BBC no decisions have yet been made. Clintons was responding to reports on Sunday that it wanted to close 66 out of 332 shops, with landlords slashing rents on most of the other stores. The restructuring would involve a controversial scheme known as a company voluntary arrangement (CVA), an insolvency process that allows companies to continue trading while pushing through closures and rent cuts.”

Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit said: “If Clintons go down it would be a body blow to the paper and card industries with printers and paper manufacturers hit. We have had feedback in the last few weeks from members of our credit circle that there were issues with the card shop chain. It’s also a sign of times with a fall in traditional cards that you post with a stamp, but also the general malaise felt in the High Street with declining sales for many business models.”

In October 1994 Clintons acquired 83 shops from Hallmark and a year later another 112 from Carlton Cards with the Birthdays chain acquired in 2004. In 2012 the firm was in trouble when American Greetings bailed them out to the tune of £36m only to fall into administration themselves. It led to mass closures and the selling off of 397 shops to Lakeshore Lending leaving the current stores to fend for themselves.

The Sunday Telegraph reported on November 10, that Clintons had told landlords 90 of its stores would close as they were loss makers. However it’s possible the axe may not fall immediately as the stores now expect their busiest time of the year with Christmas on the horizon.

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send at email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For more features, news, views and reviews visit www.harrymottram.co.uk and follow Harry on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and God knows where else.

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