Hundreds of contracted bathroom installers have collectively been left £3m out of pocket after nationwide retailer Bathstore collapsed last month.
The retailer, which has 135 stores and dealt in both adaptable and conventional bathrooms, appointed administrators after it failed to find a buyer and announced that all installation work will cease immediately.
End-users have been inconvenienced with incomplete work but small businesses contracted to fit bathrooms for Bathstore are owed tens of thousands of pounds, according to the British Institute of Kitchen, Bedroom & Bathroom Installation (BiKBBI).
Up to 300 fitters, some of whom reportedly face bankruptcy, are owed on average between £2,500 and £10,000. The highest individual creditor is owed over £90,000, which BiKBBI described as a “life changing situation”.
While Bathstore took payment from end-users three weeks prior to work commencing, contractors were not paid until two weeks after the job had been completed. Individual contractors lost out when the company entered into administration.
When Bathstore announced its administration last month, BiKBBI said it had received over 100 updates from members who are collectively owed in excess of £1m for completed installation work. It added: “We expect this number to rise dramatically over the coming days as our members continue to update us with their stake.”
Many individual installers, some of whom relied on Bathstore work for their revenues, have also lost out on a pipeline of upcoming work and a large chunk of their income has been extinguished.
Brett Thornton said he is owed £90,000 from the retailer and has a team of six working on around 10 Bathstore projects a month.
He told The Guardian that he may have to remortgage his home to support his business. He told the newspaper: “I’ve been up until 11 or 12 at night trying to sort out more work and then waking up at 4am or 5am thinking about it again to try and sort things out. It’s just a constant battle and worry. I have five or six guys relying on me to find work.”
Thornton’s team finished one bathroom installation for an elderly man knowing that they would not be paid for their work.
BiKBBI said that people often understand the impact on staff involved in these situations but forget the impact on micro SME suppliers.
It issued a statement saying that the threat of losing money is one thing, but this situation will affect the future order-book, with installers often being booked for 8-12 weeks in advance.
The statement read: “We are working with some great retailers and strategic partners and thankfully the general UK skills shortage will prove to be an asset in this scenario.
“Great installers are in demand and we will ensure that our members are connected with those businesses and individuals seeking a professional installation service.
BIKBBI CEO Damian Walters (pictured) said: “Once again it’s the little guy that’s hit the most. Honest, hard-working people who are the backbone of our economy are once again victim of a scenario which is clearly way beyond their control.
“I give my personal assurances to each and every one of them and their families that we’ll do everything in our power to ensure their voice is heard.
“We have requested meetings with the appointed administrators at BDO and will be meeting Ministers to discuss the available support to our members and their customers.
“I have spoken to our own Patron Stephen Metcalfe MP, and we are working on a strategy to seek government support on this matter – This will go right to the top and I will not rest until notice is taken and action is had.”
Image credit: BiKBBI