Credit Control (75)
Wholesaler Palmer & Harvey has entered administration after failing to restructure significant debts owed to suppliers. The Palmer & Harvey Group, the UK’s fifth-largest privately owned business and the country’s largest tobacco supplier, had been in takeover talks with Carlyle, the private equity firm.
But after talks broke down, directors from several Palmer & Harvey group companies made an application to London’s High Court to enter administration to help ease an increasingly unmanageable debt burden.
It is every supplier’s worst nightmare. You have finally secured a lucrative contract with a big name global brand, giving you what feels like a sense of security and assurance for future earnings.
Then, all of a sudden, the unthinkable happens - the company goes bust. From a position of relative comfort, you now find yourself at the back of a long queue chasing unpaid invoices you may well never recover.
Depending on how reliant your business is on that one big client, you could easily find yourself in jeopardy too, unable to absorb the loss.
Vertu Corporation Limited, the well-known British manufacturer of luxury smartphones, has finally filed for insolvency after being passed between owners since 2012.
The company was known for its spangly, jewel-encrusted handsets which came with equally ludicrous price tags. Its entry-level handset cost a cool £6,500; prices stretched to more than £250,000 for the garish Vertu Signature Cobra.
The Grocery Code Adjudicator (GCA) has attracted sharp criticism for claiming that there is “no evidence” that late payments by supermarkets cause problems for suppliers.
Christine Tacon made the comments to Food Manufacture magazine, claiming that in the four years she has been in the role, retailers were honouring an average of 98 per cent of invoices on time.
The remarks have attracted disbelief and outrage from suppliers’ representatives in the industry. The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) pointed out the the government recognised there was a chronic cross-industry problem with late payments affecting SMEs, which make up 96 per cent of UK food and drink manufacturers.
With a little under a month before the UK goes to the polls - again - following PM Theresa May’s snap general election call, it is difficult to know on what ‘issues’ the public will be basing their votes.
Such has been the mad scramble caused by the election call, the major political parties have not yet even got round to publishing their manifestos - even the Tories, it seems, were caught on the hop by their leader’s out-of-leftfield decision.
One issue we’re sure all small business owners would like to see feature prominently is so-called late payment culture.
New York publishing house Condé Nast has reportedly come up with a novel solution to the tricky issue of ensuring its contributors get paid on time.
As reported here, the magazine empire behind global titles such as Vogue, Vanity Fair, GQ and Tatler has decided to offer freelance writers an offer they cannot refuse - Condé Nast has very generously offered to pay invoices early, in return for a small reduction in the payment. Must be to cover all of the extra admin involved.
The government has ordered all large businesses to disclose information on payment practices as it seeks to crackdown on late payment culture. From April, all enterprises which meet the qualifying criteria face a statutory Duty to Report information including the average time taken to pay invoices and details of payment dispute protocols.
The reports, which must be submitted twice a year, will be published online, giving suppliers access to critical information on the payment practices of potential larger clients.
A new report has confirmed the shocking impact that unpaid B2B debts have on the UK economy.
A survey of SMEs by Amicus Commercial Finance found that the average small business in the UK writes off a staggering £12,000 each year in unpaid invoices, mainly from larger customers and clients.
Taken across the entire economy, that adds up to an unbelievable £50bn a year in lost revenue - or £134 million lost to bad debt every single day.
Three quarters of the businesses surveyed said they had written off debts entirely in the past year. Amongst the worst affected group, businesses with 50 to 249 employees, a quarter of all invoices are not being paid on time, if at all.
The only thing anyone can be certain about at this stage following June’s vote for the UK to leave the EU is that no one is going to be certain about anything else very quickly. Brexit has understandably created huge interest and nervousness in the business community as companies try to work out how the break from Britain’s largest trading partner will impact on them.
Having to deal with invoices that are not paid on time is stressful for any business owner. Late payments can seriously disrupt cash flow, take precious time to sort out, and can sour relationships with clients.
Most late payments are one offs and arise from perfectly understandable circumstances. With a little dialogue and a little patience, most can be resolved amicably. But what about that small minority of clients who persistently pay late?
Small and medium sized businesses need to be aware of a rising wave of frauds affecting companies big and small. The current most frequently used type of fraud is often called “Fake CEO Fraud” and we would urge all UK businesses to stay vigilant or potentially stand to lose significant sums.
So you have just won a new client. You aced the bidding process, the initial project meetings went well and the money is good. You can’t wait to get started, when out of the blue you get the following note from their finance people:
“Please be advised that our payment terms are 60 days from date of invoice. This will override any payment terms stated on your invoice. Payments will be processed accordingly on the final Friday of each month.”
What do you do?
Work has stopped on the restoration of Lancaster Castle after the company working on it was placed into administration. York based William Anelay Ltd, one of Britain’s oldest heritage restoration and construction companies, had been working on a programme of work to repair 70 per cent of the castle’s roofs and deal with weather damage to the fabric of the 1,000-year-old Grade II Listed building.
Having to chase late payments is sadly an experience most people in business have to go through at one time or another. But knowing when irritating delays have crossed the line into a breakdown in the business relationship can be difficult to fathom.
Cash flow is important, but long-term survival depends on holding on to the clients that you invested in.