Withdrawal of credit insurance exposes suppliers to greater risks

cash flow retail sme smes Nov 14, 2019

While it is true that running a business is always challenging the withdrawal of credit insurance is adding to the cash flow pressure on supply chains and in particular on retailers.

Trade credit insurance protects suppliers by minimising the financial impact if a customer fails to pay for goods and services.

The withdrawal of credit insurance is normally based on a company’s credit rating that in turn is adjusted based on disclosed accounts, county court claims, statements by directors and adherence to payment terms as information that is increasingly being provided by suppliers.

For more than a year, the retail sector has been in the spotlight due to the high profile restructuring of several large chains and there would seem to be little sign of this abating, according to recent reports highlighting the latest move, by Paris-based insurer Euler Hermes, which reduced the credit cover it provides to Iceland’s suppliers over the summer.

Euler Hermes is not the only...

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Post-Christmas apocalypse for the retail sector?

brexit economy retail Nov 12, 2019

As we head for its most crucial shopping period in the wake of Mothercare and Mamas & Papas collapsing into administration, I make no apologies for revisiting the UK’s retail sector.

Following last month’s Brexit Halloween deadline and with Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas ahead of us retailers have reportedly stockpiled seasonal products earlier than usual but the consumer uncertainty remaining no one knows how much stock will remain unsold in the new year.

The Confederation of British Industry, the country’s leading business lobby group, said retailers’ stock levels compared with the volume of expected sales had risen to the highest point in October since it began compiling retail sales estimates in 1983.

This is against a backdrop of dramatically narrowing profit margins, falling consumer confidence and repeated demands for comprehensive reform of business rates falling on seemingly deaf Government ears.

A new report by the global professional...

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‘Caveat Emptor’ Is peer to peer lending too risky for peers?

Peer to peer lending (P2P) enables individuals to obtain loans directly from other individuals, cutting out the financial institution as the middleman.

As such, the lack of trust in middlemen has seen the emergence of peer to peer lending platforms as an attractive proposition for retail investors in a climate of low interest rates because they can offer better rates thanks to the lower overheads associated with online businesses. The lower overheads are also related to not having to pay a middleman!

The platforms are generally a website or app that facilitates this alternate method of financing, where the first emerged in 2005 and was brought under FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) regulation in 2014.

However, the FCA has been criticised as being too “light touch” in its oversight following the collapse in May this year of UK property finance peer to peer firm Lendy with £160m in outstanding loans of which it has been calculated more than £90m are in...

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High Court CVA clarification for landlords

cva retail Oct 03, 2019

Recently in the High Court landlords challenged the validity of the CVA (Company Voluntary Arrangement) that was approved for the High Street Debenhams retail chain.

The store chain had announced that its restructuring plan based on the closure of 50 stores and rent reductions for up to 100 others.

Major shareholder Mike Ashley, owner of Sports Direct, had sought to challenge the CVA after the board of Debenhams rejected his offer to buy the chain for £200 million. His shareholding was wiped out when the company went private as part of the rescue and restructuring deal, which was approved by 80% of its landlords.

Although Ashley withdrew his own challenge to the CVA, he continued by backing a legal challenge from Combined Property Control Group (CPC) as landlords who owned several properties.

According to CMS Law the five grounds of the CPC challenge were:

Items 1, 2, 4 and 5 were rejected by the High Court, although item 3 was upheld, meaning that the landlord...

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Can SMEs afford to wait any longer for a business rates review?

Retailers have been calling for months for a business rates review as the decimation of the UK’s High Street continues.

In early August more than 50 leading retailers wrote to the Chancellor urging him to change tax rules to boost the UK High Street and the business law firm RPC has reported that there has been a 65% increase in the number of businesses challenging their rates bill in the last quarter, with 4,000 challenges made in the first quarter of 2019, up from 2,430 challenges in Q4 2018.

RPC explains that the increase in challenges shows broadening dissatisfaction with business rates. Jeremy Drew, Co-Head of Retail at RPC, explains that the property tax is so complex that each new ratings review sees thousands of challenges lodged by businesses.

The retailers’ call was reinforced later in the month by the CBI (Confederation of British Industry), whose chief economist Rain Newton Smith said reform would be an enormous help to companies facing...

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Ongoing carnage in consumer services sector as consumers reduce spending in restaurants and bars

brexit economy retail Sep 10, 2019

As I outlined in my June sector blog, it is not only well-known shops in the consumer services sector that have been struggling.

The restaurant sector has also seen a plethora of big name closures, including Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Carluccios, Prezzo/Chimichanga, Byron, Cafe Rouge, Jamie Oliver’s restaurant group and most recently the Restaurant Group which has announced that it plans to close up to 100 of its Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito branches.

A recent CBI poll has revealed that the whole of the consumer services sector, which includes hotels, bars, restaurants and leisure firms, has suffered its fourth consecutive fall in business activity with both profits and confidence plummeting.

Rain Newton-Smith, chief economist of the CBI, said: “The idea of a no-deal Brexit is clearly weighing down the economy and is affecting businesses both big and small.”

But, of course, there is much more to all this than Brexit uncertainty weighing on businesses and...

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Can fashion retail ever be made sustainable?

governance retail women Jul 25, 2019

It is no secret that High Street retail has been in dire straits for some time, and clothing and fashion retail have particularly suffered.

The most recent, and perhaps most high-profile example has been the struggles of Philip Green’s Arcadia Group, comprising the clothing chains Topshop, Topman, Evans, Wallis, Miss Selfridge, Burton and Dorothy Perkins, to use CVAs as a way of restructuring.

But it is not only physical fashion retail stores that are struggling. ASOS has recently issued its second profit warning in seven months, albeit blaming IT chaos in its overseas warehouses despite overall sales being up 12% in the four months to 30th June.

Obviously, cheap prices and turning around lines quickly, have been the two main things on which fashion retail has been relying. As a consequence, clothes are often made by low-paid workers in appalling conditions, in factories located in countries like Bangladesh.

However, for some years there have been demands from...

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Business opportunities for SMEs in the growing demand for sustainability and cutting waste

The neoliberal economic model based on perpetual growth has come under increasing attack from environmental campaigners particularly since the week-long Extinction Rebellion activity in April this year.

With almost-daily horror stories about climate change, global warming and the amount of plastic waste littering the planet, not to mention a significant decrease in biodiversity, it is clear that action needs to happen a lot more urgently than has previously been admitted.

Changing the developed world’s economic model from perpetual to sustainable growth is no doubt going to be a major challenge, particularly in the face of a rise in populist political parties putting national self-interest first and also of some leaders, such as US President Donald Trump who despite the evidence still questions the truth of climate change.

Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz makes a distinction between good capitalism, which he calls “wealth creation”, and bad...

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Two examples that justify agility when pursuing a retail turnaround

This blog contrasts the fortunes of Majestic Wines with those of Debenhams as arguably examples that show how retail business can survive a rapidly changing environment.

There have been efforts by many struggling High Street retailers to improve their businesses by using an insolvency mechanism called the CVA (Company Voluntary Arrangement).

The most recent of these is Debenhams, which, having secured £200 million in new loans in March and followed with a pre-pack administration sale in early April, effectively wiping out its shareholders including the vociferous Mike Ashley who also owns Sports Direct and BHS.

It was acquired by new owners, a consortium of banks and hedge funds, who almost immediately launched a major store closure programme ultimately to involve 50 stores, in conjunction with a CVA aimed at persuading landlords to reduce the rent for remaining stores by up to 50%.

Debenhams’ sales had dropped by 7.4% in the previous six months but it has been...

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What’s ahead for the retail sector in 2019? – February sector focus

administration retail Feb 07, 2019

It has been obvious for some time that the High Street is undergoing massive changes as online shopping gains a growing share of the retail pie.

Not a week goes by without another announcement of a “big name” closure or restructure and the New Year has been no different after mediocre Christmas sales with Hardy Amies and HMV falling into administration for a second time, Patisserie Valerie and Odd Bins filing for insolvency and Marks & Spencer announcing further store closures as part of its ongoing restructuring.

The figures make gloomy reading.

Deloitte says it has been instructed by more than 20 struggling high street chains in the past two months to assess whether they are eligible for restructuring their debts and lease obligations, according to the Sunday Times.

Towards the end of January the Guardian carried out a survey of the decimation that has beset High Streets in 88 major town centres in England and Wales and found that they have lost 8% of their shops...

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