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Croydon Council disappointed Allders did not ask for help earlier

Allders in Croydon has been placed in administration

Allders in Croydon has been placed in administration

First published in News

The Allders crisis could have been averted if company bosses had asked for help earlier from the council.

Croydon’s historic department store was plunged into administration on Friday after last-ditch talks failed to find a solution.

Geoff Bouchier, Matthew Bond and Philip Duffy, all of leading global financial advisory and investment banking firm Duff & Phelps were appointed joint administrators.

The administrators said the store remains open for business and concession partners are continuing to support the business during the administration.

Outstanding orders will continue to be fulfilled, they pledged.

A spokesman said: "The joint administrators are currently exploring all potential options to maximise the realisation for the company's creditors including a sale of the business.

"Some 300 employees (excluding concessions) are affected."

It is not first time Allders, the third largest department store in the UK, has found itself in financial turmoil.

In 2005 it was rescued from administration by current owner Harold Tillman. He saved the store just days before it was going to close with 500 jobs ready to be axed.

Five years later, in 2010, Allders was again on the brink of going bust.

But an eleventh-hour deal with Natwest was struck, thanks to the intervention of then Labour Business Secretary, Peter Mandelson.

Croydon Council leader Mike Fisher said he wanted the store to remain open but one of his main priorities was to set up an advice bureau for workers who could lose their jobs.

He also said Allders should have approached the council earlier for help.

"It is fair to say that I am frustrated that they only came to the council on Monday," he said.

"The reason why it is frustrating is because they left it so late.

"Had they come to the council several weeks earlier and didn’t have a long list of creditors, we could have talked to them and got national and regional government involved.

"It made it virtually impossible to help them."

Councillor Fisher added: “If the store is to close we are making sure we work with our partners at Job Centre Plus to help employers and small businesses who will be affected. I can’t hide my disappointment.”

Jon Rouse, chief executive at Croydon Council, said: “We have to be pragmatic. The most important element is the ground floor of the store, so our first priority is to keep that space active.

“It is important that we try to understand the structure of the company. It is important to find out where the debt lay and what the relationship was between the owners.

“If they had come to us two or three months ago we would be looking at a very different prospect.

He added: “We have two responsibilities now. Firstly as a local authority representing the area and secondly as a creditor. Our hope is that there is an acquisition out of administration.

“If that doesn’t work and the store does close, then it is very much about what can we do with that space.

“We do hope that for at least three that the store is there and we need to make sure it is trading.

“We will have to think very creatively in what we might have to do in that space and we will have to talk to the landlord and the GLA about what could happen.

“At the moment I don’t have the answers.”

Labour spokeswoman for economic development, Councillor Toni Letts, said that the news of the closure was devastating.

She said: “All of our thoughts are with those workers whose jobs are under threat.

“This appalling news coming on top of last year’s riots and the impending departure of Nestle is a bitter and devastating blow to Croydon.”

Allders director Andrew Mackenzie said: “While our funders, shareholders and concession partners have been supportive throughout and the ongoing restructure was progressing, the tough market conditions in the UK retail sector have forced the board to appoint administrators in order to protect the business and its creditors.

"We will now work with the administrator to continue ongoing discussions with funders and other interested parties in the business. With the considerable support already given by Croydon Council and our landlord Minerva, I would hope that additional investment or a sale can be achieved.”

Labour leader at Croydon Council, Tony Newman, added: “The failure of Tory economic policy at both national and local level on top of the broken promises to support our town following last year’s riots have now sadly come home to roost.

“When you compare our response several years ago to intervene to support Allders, to the current councils lack lustre ‘let the market decide’ approach, this is proof that both Croydon and the country need a policy for growth, not just austerity and cuts.”

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