In the last of a three-part series, newsagent Graham Hales concludes his story of closing a newsagents and explains how he finally completed the sale of his store. In part 2, Graham shares how he eventually secured a buyer for his store, and in part 1, he talks about why he and his sister decided to sell their shop.
The signed contracts marking the sale of our newsagents shop were exchanged just before Christmas, starting a six-week process that would conclude with the closing of our business. The first of many actions that would ensure this was done in an orderly and successful manner was to give Menzies, our news wholesaler, notice to close our account and stop supplies.
The date set for completing the sale and handing over the keys was 3rd of February. I had agreed with the buyer that everything apart from some of the shelves would be cleared out before he became the owner. From what I understood, he is going to retain part of the shop for retail and convert the remainder of the building into flats.
My main concern about the deal was that was I wasn’t entirely sure the buyer would be able to complete. This concern was increased when a surveyor for his mortgage provider asked to visit my premises and also requested a copy of my own building insurance document. Having regular conversations with my solicitor about these concerns helped me stay on track with the things I needed to do before completion.
Aside from contacting the Menzies call centre to stop the newspaper and magazine supply, my other action point was to inform my employees of the store closure.
As I covered most of the store opening hours I only had one employee that I needed to make redundant. Our buyer was not taking over the business as a going concern so there was no Transfer of Undertakings (TUPE) obligation on him.
I had reduced the number of suppliers during the final year that I had managed the business. The key non-news wholesaler was Palmer & Harvey and I stopped ordering from them at the end of December. Instead, I relied on visits to Booker cash & carry to restock when necessary. I informed the suppliers formally that the shop would be closing during the final two weeks before completion.
The McColls area manager had approached me several times in the last few years regarding selling my newspaper rounds to them. At the beginning of January I contacted their current area manager and agreed to sell 60 customers to them.
On the Saturday before completion I sent out a letter to our delivery customers to let them know that the shop was closing, and I also gave a copy to each customer that came into the store. Additionally, we created a poster that was placed in the window to inform the public.
I needed to get the newspaper round accounts paid up before the store closed, so sent out the bills at the beginning of the final week. This led to almost all the delivery customers coming into the shop to pay their account and bide us farewell.
When I let Johnsons Press know that we would no longer require the Chichester Observer, the only title that they were continuing to supply to our shop, I quickly received a call from The News, Portsmouth’s local daily newspaper. They arranged to send a reporter and a photographer to capture the story for an article.
The big task in the final week was clearing everything from the premises that was not being sold to the buyer. After nearly 55 years in occupation there was quite a lot to shift. Fortunately, a builder friend offered to help with this task and he, along with his van, made a real difference. A local scrap merchant removed the redundant chiller cabinet for £100, but before he could take it away I needed to provide him with a certificate proving that it had been correctly de-gassed.
Preparing the magazines for return to Menzies turned out to be a much longer job than I originally thought. Starting at 11am I did not complete this task until 8pm. The tote boxes and bundles were collected by the driver on the Friday morning which was the final time that the wholesaler’s van would go to the store. Once I had packed the last of the magazines, I closed the shop for the final time after serving my customers for so many years - a sad thing to do.
My friend and fellow newsagent, Ray Culverwell, agreed to take the saleable stock off my hands and he came along on completion day to help me clear the shelves.
By midday the shop was clear and ready to hand over to its new owner. At 12.30pm my solicitor phoned to advise me not to hand over the keys yet as the purchaser’s solicitor had not forwarded the money. My solicitor then called again at 2.30pm to confirm that completion had happened and that they would be transferring the funds to my bank account.
The final few days of running the shop had been very emotional with most of our customers coming into thank us for our service over many years. We even had some past customers drop by to wish us well in retirement.
The shop may be closed, but I still have the remaining bills to pay, a small number of HND accounts to collect, the VAT return to prepare and finalise the books so that my accountant can complete the final Profit and Loss account. Once that has been submitted to the HMRC, my sister and I will each have tax bills to settle next year.
The signed contracts for the sale of our newsagents shop were exchanged just before Christmas, starting a six-week process that would conclude with the closing of our business.