It’s been a couple of weeks of endings for several businesses. At Cotswold Fayre, two of our new suppliers for 2017 have stopped trading less than a year after we started with them. Thor Drinks has done it properly and gone into administration but the other, Little Turban, has disappeared off the face of the planet, leaving orders unfulfilled and customers disappointed. They leave behind a still live Twitter account and a consumer web-site, still taking customer’s money – I know because I placed an order as a last resort to see if anything would happen. It didn’t!
As I often say, in talks or presentations to start-ups, it’s tough out there and many small food and drink start-ups do not make it beyond their second birthday, and many more should probably stop trying. There are many food and drink producers bumping along the bottom, working crazy hours for no profit, or worse, a loss. What keeps them going is often a mixture of lifestyle and their brand being part of them. What may be better is for them to join their skills with another food and drink business and try to grow something that will generate an income. The vast number of small businesses within the sector is the joy of being in this space, but I just wish more of them had a decent turnover and were making a profit. Yes, we all go through hard times, and tough years, but if this has been the case for years on end maybe it is time to do something different!
At the other end of the scale, Wholefoods shut down their only two out of London stores last week with bizarre timing. Why you would close just before the most profitable three weeks of the year with the shops full of Christmas merchandise, I can’t understand. Apart from the business reasons, staff losing their jobs having worked a full December is better than looking for work in December. Also at the end of last week Palmer and Harvey finally folded. This is an enormous wholesaler business, which made its money from food and tobacco. The amount of debt they have left behind is eye-watering – they owed two tobacco companies around £150M each. The final straw was Costcutter moving its supply base to the Coop from Palmer and Harvey apparently. They leave behind 4,500 people without a job – very sad for them and their families and worse with Christmas approaching.
I’m sorry if this makes depressing reading, but you probably knew all this anyway. Many retailers will not have time to read this column anyway, as they are entering their busiest time of the year by far – hope you have an amazing next few weeks!