The two solicitors exchanged contracts at 6.50pm on Thursday, 15th September and our business had a new owner the following Thursday morning. Quite a tight time frame with much to be done.

Our first task was to tell our staff that we were selling our business and the their jobs were safe as they were covered by TUPE . As I posted here that we also sent a message to our customers .

To enable the transfer to happen ‘comfortably’ we decided that we would close our shop at 1pm on the 21st. This was to allow for the removal of our rented SparPos epos system and the installation of the buyer’s Nisa tills ready for the next morning. We had prearranged with our stocktaker to undertake the valuation on 21st September and I contacted them to confirm the date. I also contact Post Office Ltd and Camelot to confirm the transfer.

I had been keeping our Spar wholesaler, Capper fully informed throughout our sales process and I spoke to their rep to discuss our final week of being one of their customers. We discussed removal of their equipment including the epos system. We also talked about when our last order would be placed.

Next on the list was a letter to each of our suppliers to tell them that we were selling our business and where needed to pay any outstanding accounts we sent a cheque. We also advised our local council of the impending change as well as the utility companies. And then came the HMRC in all it’s guises.

Throughout our last week we had many conversations with our customers, sharing memories and accepting their thanks for the service that we had provided them and the community. It was an outflow of sadness that we were leaving mixed with warm wishes for a happy retirement. It was delightful to hear from so many customers about how they saw us. We also received dozens of cards and letters.

To enable our buyer to get his EPOS system up and running by 22nd September we allowed him to have his back office computer installed on the previous Friday. As the Spar and NISA EPOS systems are very similar we were able to arrange for our stock file to be made available which saved a great deal of effort. His team did check that all our stock lines were on their system and then needed to add newspapers and magazines.

As the buyer and his store management team were in the shop for some of the days in the run up to completion we were able to introduce them to our staff and to start to introduce them to our customers. On hearing that one of our staff was concerned about his future with the business I arranged for him to have a interview with future owner. This dealt with the worry that all the staff were going to have to reapply for their jobs, this concern apparently came about due to a misunderstanding about the need for the new owner to provide a replacement contract of employment.

When our last day arrived it was business as usual, well nearly, all the deliveries arrived including a dry goods only one from Capper. This stock was set aside and its value was taken off the delivery note. Of course more customers wished to bid their own farewells to us, quite emotional really, but there was much to do.

At 1 pm we closed our shop for the very last time, I have to say it was quite a relief. The tasks for the afternoon and evening still had to be achieved. There was the stock valuation, removal of the SparPos system and Post Office balance that I needed to complete. Two stocktakers had already arrived and we set them to work. The Spar till engineer arrived and removed the tills, but before we allowed him to close down the back office computer we backed up and printed out data that we thought that we may need in the future such as the ‘electronic till rolls’.

We also needed to have our newspaper delivery customer debt figure to ‘sell’ to our buyer. As we had been computerise throughout our ownership that was just a matter of running a report. We had brought the value down significantly during the previous few days by sending out statements at the start of the week. A remarkable coincidence was the figure was with a few £1s of our 1989 transfer amount.

The buyer’s challenge was to get his scanning system installed and operational. This was followed by his team undertaking a full stocktaking using several hand held terminals and up loading the captured data on to the system. No small task.

During the afternoon our solicitor visited us so that he could be present at our last board meeting where we signed a series of documents that included us resigning as directors of our company. We also handed over to him the company record books for him to send on to the buyer’s solicitor. He told us that the purchase money for the business and stock had already been forwarded to him so completion would go head as arranged.

With the Post Office fully counted and the shop stocked on their system there was just the question of was everything in place for the following morning? As it was past midnight by this time I offered to provide floats for their tills and we locked up and looked forward to another busy day to come.

The new owner and his team were back by 5.30am and they checked the news delivery in and put the rounds together. At 7am I showed them how the automatic front door operated and they were off and trading. The Post Office trainer arrived before 8.30am and by 9am The new sub Postmaster, the trainer and myself had locked ourselves in the PO strongroom and the transfer stock count had begun. It was midday by the time everything had been checked and the paperwork completed. I was no longer a Sub Postmaster.

As we lived over the shop the 22nd of September was also our moving day, but that’s another story. Needless to say it was all a bit manic, but we had achieved our goal and after 22 year 6 months and 9 days of ownership of the newsagents on Haglands Lane in West Chiltington we had past the baton to a new owner.

I will look at the period from transferring the business to the new owner up to agreeing our completion accounts in a few months time.