THE plug could soon be pulled on the UK’s biggest bathroom specialist, as it battles to rescue its business – and stave off insolvency.
Bathstore, whose shops are a common sight throughout Yorkshire and the North East, is on the brink of administration, according to latest media reports.
Insolvency analysts have been quoted as saying as far as further investment from Bathstore’s owners is concerned, the taps are set to be turned off.
Such an Insolvency scenario would put the jobs of around 700 people in jeopardy, including many in Yorkshire and the North East.
The bathroom giant operates stores at 16 sites across the North, including Barnsley, Carlisle, Chesterfield, Doncaster, Gateshead, Grimsby, Harrogate, Huddersfield, Hull, Newcastle, Scunthorpe, Sheffield, Shipley, Stockton and York.
It has been widely reported that the loss-making business faces administration after failing to find a buyer amid growing financial pressures.
There is a question mark over whether the group’s owner is willing to put in more cash to save the business, ahead of the next round of rent payment days.
While it is now based in Welwyn Garden City, the retailer has a strong Yorkshire pedigree – and many customers across Yorkshire and the North East.
In 2003, a decade after it was founded, it was sold to the builders’ merchant Wolseley, who was the biggest employer in Ripon when it was headquartered in the Yorkshire cathedral city.
In 2012 Wolseley sold Bathstore to the Yorkshire private equity firm Endless, based in Leeds, in a £15m deal.
The company changed hands yet again just two years later when it was acquired by an investment firm run by American billionaire Warren Stephens.
This run of acquisitions is a far cry from the financial pressures confronting it today, as insolvency fears gather pace that Bathstore’s bubble is about to burst.
According to business recovery experts, Bathstore has been hit by an insolvency double whammy.
Not only was the company hard hit by a marked reduction in consumer confidence in 2017, it has also struggled to overcome increased sourcing costs following the devaluation of sterling in the wake of the 2016 Brexit vote.
These tough trading conditions continued into 2018, when the company embarked on a business recovery turnaround plan in a last-ditch bid restore profitability.
Now a doubt hangs over whether that business recovery and refinancing plan has been successful.
The £1bn bathroom market is dominated by builder’s merchants and DIY chains. As with other home improvement businesses sales, industry experts say it has been torpedoed by the slowdown in the housing market wedded to weak consumer confidence.
Sales of big-ticket items have been particularly hard hit, as the rising number of insolvency victims of the High Street demonstrate.
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