After failing to secure a buyer, Bathstore, the UK’s biggest bathroom specialist, has collapsed into administration putting over 500 jobs at risk. The company has appointed the business services firm BDO as administrators, who said the retailer would continue to trade for now in the hope it could be sold as a going concern. So far, the administrators have not received any offers.
Bathstore has 132 stores and 529 staff. Most employees – 405 people – are shop workers, while 124 are in the head office in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire.
Ryan Grant, the joint administrator, said: “Despite significant investment into the business over the past five years, Bathstore has struggled to overcome the well-documented challenges facing the UK retail sector.
“The appointment was made after several months of difficult trading and the failure of ongoing talks to find a buyer for the business. Bathstore is continuing to trade in administration while the administrators seek a buyer.”
He said Bathstore should be able to fulfil the majority of outstanding customer orders, although all installation services have ceased.
Customers will be contacted directly but can also find information on the company’s website.
It is the latest retailer facing a financial harship, with many others going out of business or closing stores and the British Retail Consortium (BRC) reporting that retail sales see the worst decline on record. Chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, Helen Dickinson OBE, commented: “With the biggest decline in retail sales on record, the risk of further job losses and store closures will only increase. With retail conditions the toughest they have been for a decade, politicians must act to support the successful reinvention of our high streets and local communities. Business rates remain a barrier, preventing many retailers from investing in their physical space. We have a broken tax system, which sees retailers paying vast sums of money regardless of whether they make a penny at the till, and yet the Government is failing to act. The legislation is falling behind the technological revolution.”
Bathstore made a pre-tax loss of £22m in the year to 31 July 2017 with sales of £141m, according to the last set of results filed with Companies House. The loss reflected exceptional costs of £11m, including a £5.4m writedown on the value of its stores and leases. It also appointed a new chief executive, Ian Herrett, who joined in May 2018 from the builders’ merchants Wolseley UK.
Its rival Better Bathrooms slumped into administration in March with the loss of 325 jobs, however it was confirmed less than two weeks later that the assets of BetterBathrooms (UK) Limited have been sold to Buy it Direct Ltd. The £1bn-a-year bathroom retail sector has been hit by the slowdown in the housing market and weak consumer confidence, with sales of big-ticket items particularly hard hit.