It can’t be too often that small suppliers find themselves in agreement with notoriously hard-nosed retail tycoon Mike Ashley, owner of the Sports Direct Group. But on the subject of troubled department store Debenhams’ recovery options, there may be some common ground.
In the past week, Debenhams has secured a £200m refinancing package to help it restructure its debts, cut operating costs and rationalise its store holdings. Mike Ashley and Sports Direct, Debenhams’ biggest shareholder, are vehemently opposed to the plan, even going so far as to write to shareholders alleging misconduct from directors in a bid to get them to block the plans.
Backers of a project to reboot the classic ZX Spectrum as a handheld games console have been left half a million pounds out of pocket after the developer went to the wall.
As we have previously reported, the project to bring back the cult 80s device launched by Retro Computers Ltd has been dogged with problems in what has become a long-running saga.
The company initially set up a crowdfunding campaign through IndieGoGo to bring the concept to life. It raised £513,000 from more than 4,500 backers, with Retro promising each enthusiast a finished console when production was completed.
Another week, another tale of company administration, job losses and suppliers facing an anxious wait on whether they’ll ever get anything back on unpaid invoices.
The collapse of Flybmi, the small regional airline based at East Midlands Airport, has resulted in the ‘majority’ of the company’s 376 staff being laid off with immediate effect. Following Monarch last year, it is the second UK airline to go under in less than 12 months.
Sadly, after reporting in our last blog on the issues digital magazine The Pool was having with paying freelance contributors, its financial issues have come to a head. Talks to save the ailing publication with an injection of new cash apparently made no headway and it has entered administration.
As well as meaning 20-plus members of staff now face redundancy, the development leaves freelancers who are still awaiting payment on long overdue invoices in an even more precarious position.
Lifestyle magazine The Pool has suspended all freelancer commissions after it emerged it was facing a sizeable backlog of late payments owed to contributors as well as to staff.
New editor Cate Sevilla took the decision to halt all new work requests for freelance journalists and photographers, including from regular columnists, after being inundated with queries over unpaid invoices since she took the job in September.
The rhetoric surrounding the UK’s late payments culture was ramped up another notch this week as an influential Parliamentary committee recommended a mandatory 30-day payment term to stamp out the problem.
Publishing its Small Business and Productivity report, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) committee concluded that ‘disgraceful’ behaviour by big firms in particular on payments was seriously hampering output and growth amongst SME suppliers.
It feels like we have been here before somehow. Lots of well-meaning words, a tough-sounding stance… and then what? Rinse and repeat.
The latest announcement from the government on the subject of late payment culture has come in the form of a “call for evidence” from Small Business Minister Kelly Tolhurst specifically on how to end the abuse of SMEs by large corporate clients.
Directors who dissolve companies to write off debts, only to start up near identical businesses shortly after, could be banned and fined under new regulations.
The government has moved to crackdown on so-called ‘phoenix companies’ as part of a raft of changes intended to protect employees and pension holders when companies are shut down.
Retail tycoon Mike Ashley has been quick to position himself as champion of the high street after buying House of Fraser out of administration. But whether suppliers, pension holders and even landlords will be celebrating the takeover is questionable.
The Sports Direct owner snapped up the struggling department chain for £90m just an hour after entered administration last week, vowing to keep open at least 80% of its UK stores open.
The government’s much-vaunted ‘Northern Powerhouse’ may have turned out to be little more than a catchy phrase scribbled down on the back of a Chancellor’s fag packet. But at least contractors and small suppliers operating in the North of England’s biggest cities are more likely than most to get paid on time.
In a survey carried out by FreeAgent, small traders in Manchester reported the lowest rate of late payments nationwide. According to the findings, 86% of invoices issued by freelancers and microbusinesses in the city are paid by the due date - which compares very favourably to the national average of 52%.