Major convenience service providers and suppliers have urged retailers in severe financial distress to find support immediately, as the number of winding-up orders filed against stores is rising again.
Since 2010, there were 208 winding-up orders filed against independent retailers by major companies in the sector. Nisa and PayPoint filed more than half of these at 66 and 73 respectively.
They were followed by Parfetts (31), Bestway, Costcutter and Bargain Booze (15), Blakemore (8), Booker (5), One Stop (3) Dhamecha, Filshill and Menzies (2) and James Hall (1).
The number of orders filed fell from 23 to one between 2019 and 2021 during the pandemic. However, cases have since begun to rise again with 12 in 2022 and six in 2023 so far.
PayPoint and Nisa stressed that winding-up orders were a last resort, and urged independent retailers to contact them immediately if they have major financial issues.
A PayPoint spokesperson said: “It’s unfortunate whenever a winding up order is filed and the reasons for doing so are always unique to an individual business. PayPoint has always taken its decisions on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration the severity of the issue balanced with the impact on the retailer.
“In 2020, we underwent a review of our processes during the first Covid-19 outbreak, implementing a policy that no winding-up orders would be issued unless under extreme circumstances. Since then, I’m pleased to say not one has been filed.”
“Our core business priority is the welfare of our retailer partners. We have a wide range of options available to anyone who might need support and will always be considerate of the individual situation. The best thing a retailer finding themselves in financial difficulty can do is contact our customer support team as soon as possible to discuss their circumstances confidentially.”
A Menzies spokesperson added: “Menzies is dedicated to supporting our customers and helping them keep their businesses running. We understand that difficulties may arise, and in any such event, our credit control team works closely with customers to gain a thorough understanding of their position and agree a solution that works for everyone.
“Winding-up orders are not something we take lightly, nor are they common practice. Over the past 12 years, only two such orders were made due to outstanding debt and no response to multiple communications, the last one being some seven years ago.
“If customers have any concerns or queries, our team is always available to help.”
Meanwhile, Blakemore Trade Partners commercial director Louis Drake stressed the company offers support and advice on budget planning, setting up good credit control and dealing with utility debt.
He said: “Dealing with financial uncertainty can be overwhelming for any business owner and our main concern is the wellbeing of our independent retailers, so they know they are not alone.
“We pro-actively work with our retail customers by helping them manage cash flow and when needed provide the extra support to tackle financial challenges. It is really important that retailers speak to their supplying wholesaler if they need business money advice on how to control costs.
“We also offer information on a number of common issues that businesses have to deal with including budget planning, how to set up good credit control to ensure cashflow, how to negotiate an arrangement to pay debt, how to deal with gas and electricity debt, what to do if they are struggling with making commercial rent payments or what landlords can do if a retailer can’t pay their rent.
“If our independent retailers find themselves in a difficult financial situation, we encourage them to talk to us at the earliest opportunity so we can work together on the best solution. We can support and offer practical financial help.”
Parfetts joint managing director Guy Swindell added that the firm was committed to supporting retailers. He explained: “As an employee-owned business, we have more flexibility to work in partnership with our customers. Of our many thousands of customers, a small number, around three or four, get into difficulty each year, and we have to take steps to recover a debt. It is not something we take lightly.
“Where customers fall into financial difficulties, we seek to support them through active engagement and offering structured repayment plans, which give them the space to continue to trade through the issue.
“However, some customers facing difficulties cease trading while leaving the company live, or others may not engage in creating a structured debt repayment plan and repeatedly fail to make agreed repayments.
“In rare cases and having exhausted attempts to engage positively with the customer, we need to look at our options to attempt to recover the debt owed to us. As an employee-owned company, the debt is ultimately owed to our colleagues.”
Filshill declined to comment, while Booker, Bestway, Dhamecha, One Stop and James Hall have been approached by Better Retailing for comment.