Palmer & Harvey collapse could lead to hard times for small East Anglian retailers

PUBLISHED: 09:41 30 November 2017 | UPDATED: 07:56 01 December 2017

Palmer & Harvey has a regional depot in Brandon. Picture: Palmer & Harvey

Palmer & Harvey has a regional depot in Brandon. Picture: Palmer & Harvey


Convenience stores across the region could see delivery of their Christmas supplies put in jeopardy after the collapse of one of the UK's biggest wholesalers.

Palmer & Harvey announced it was making 127 staff redundant at its Brandon distribution centre after it went into administration on Tuesday. The remaining 21 staff at the Wimbledon Avenue site will stay on to assist with the wind up of the company.

Administrators PwC confirmed around 2,500 of the group’s 3,400 staff had lost their jobs, with the remaining 900 at risk in its wholesale business, as well as its van sales and sweets and snacks distribution subsidiaries.

Nigel Dowdney, who owns two convenience stores in West Earlham and Stalham and is on the independent board of the Association of Convenience Stores, said while the firm’s demise was not a surprise for the retail market it would “make life hard” for smaller businesses.

“Palmer & Harvey have been in trouble for some time. They had been looking to join with other businesses to make themselves more efficient, but nobody has bitten,” he said.

“I am concerned for the independent convenience store market. Most people will have put in their Christmas orders in May or June, so you would expect Palmer & Harvey to have a full order book waiting to carry them through the period.

“Without those orders being delivered those retailers are going to find it more difficult.

“The options for those businesses is to go with another wholesaler, some of whom do not deal with very small retailers, or go to the cash and carry and get their goods themselves, which costs time and money.”

He added: “The outlook for small businesses at this point in time is not good, with the costs central government is piling on us.”

Prof Joshua Bamfield, director at the Centre for Retail Research in Norwich, called the situation a “crisis for small retailers”.

“When a wholesaler goes bust just before Christmas you know things are very serious because that period is very important,” he said.

“They have already made 2,500 staff redundant and the implication of that is that no one is going to buy the wholesalers, just some small specialist parts, so small retailers supplied by them are going to be very anxious.”

James Waters, leader of Forest Heath District Council, said: “We feel for the staff and their families that are affected by this decision and I am sure that the local community, like us, will rally around to do all that it can to support them at this time.”

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