Bathstore collapse leaves householders inconvenienced

Households have been left without washing facilities and some could face having to pee into a bucket after Bathstore’s collapse left a trail of unfinished installations.

Bathstore’s administrators, the accountants BDO, wrote to all the firm’s subcontracted plumbers on Wednesday night terminating them “with immediate effect”.

Faced with not being paid the plumbers have in turn all downed tools – whether the household had a functioning loo, or not.

What’s the problem?

Physical retailers have been hit by a combination of changing habits, unseasonably warm weather, rising costs and broader economic problems. 2018 saw the disappearance of Toys R Us, Maplin and Poundworld as a result.

In terms of habits, shoppers are switching to buying online. The likes of Amazon have an unfair advantage because they have a lower business rate bill, which holds down costs and enables online retailers to woo shoppers with low prices. Business rates are taxes, based on the value of commercial property, that are imposed on traditional retailers with physical stores. 

At the same time, there is a move away from buying ‘stuff’ as more people live in smaller homes and rent rather than buy. Those pressures have come just as rising labour and product costs, partly fuelled by Brexit, have coincided with economic and political uncertainty that has dampened consumer confidence.

What help do retailers need?

Retailers with a high street presence want the government to change business rates. They also want more political certainty as the potential for a no deal Brexit means some are not only incurring additional costs for stockpiling goods but are unsure about the impact of tariffs after October 2019. Retailers also want more investment in town centres to help them adapt to changing trends, as well as a cut to high parking charges which they say put off shoppers.

What is the government doing?

In the October 2018 budget the government announced some relief on business rates for independent shopkeepers. It has also set up a £675m ‘future high streets’ fund under which local councils can bid for up to £25m towards regeneration projects such as refurbishing local historic buildings and improving transport links. The fund will also pay for the creation of a high street taskforce to provide expertise and hands-on support to local areas.

What is the outlook in 2019?

Some retailers could go under. Weakened by a difficult Christmas – which accounts for the entire annual profits of many retailers, and with further Brexit wobbles to come – retailers are facing a tough 2019. Another rise in the national minimum wage in April and the falling value of the pound against the dollar, which is used to buy goods in the Far East, have also added to costs and hit profits.

Customers waiting for a new bathroom to be delivered may also lose the money paid to the company.

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Bathstore, the UK’s biggest bathroom specialist, collapsed into administration on Wednesday after BDO failed to find a buyer for the loss-making business.

More than 500 jobs look set to be lost at its 132 stores. On Thursday, 89 people were laid off at Bathstore’s head office in Welwyn Garden City.

Sarah Gavin

Current bathroom situation. @bathstore delivery delayed by over a week and just found out that #bathstore have gone into administration! Come on #bathstore, get those deliveries out? #onlybathroominthehouse #bathroomrefurbgonewrong #help

June 26, 2019

Bathstore is just the latest high street retailer to collapse, and it will not be the last, retail experts have warned. The chain’s demise has also left a trail of unhappy customers, some of whom could be left with no working toilet because the old one had been removed before the new one was installed.

Some of those affected face the prospect of spending several weeks without a working bathroom as they are forced to hunt around for alternative installers.

Anne Maskell, who lives in King’s Sutton, near Banbury, was left with an empty bathroom, and no upstairs toilet. Back in April she paid Bathstore £6,000 for a new suite with installation included.

“My installer had completely gutted my bathroom and was about to put in the new one. I am relatively lucky in that most of the new one had been delivered – minus some tiles, which we have been able to source independently,” Maskell said.

“Last night, my installer was told by the administrator that his contract was terminated immediately, and therefore he couldn’t do the work. I am by no means alone. I understand there are lot of people with unfinished bathrooms out there.”

She said she was lucky in that she had paid for the work by credit card, meaning she can hold Barclaycard liable for the work. She said she has now agreed to pay the original fitter to complete the work, in the expectation the credit card firm will refund her.

Other Bathstore customers have not fared so well, posting photos of bare walls and spaces in their bathrooms on social media.

It is not clear if they will receive the toilets and other items ordered. Ryan Grant, the joint administrator, said on Wednesday that Bathstore should be able to fulfil the majority of outstanding customer orders.

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However, customers have now been sent an email telling them to contact their card providers to ask for a chargeback or refund.

Bathstore had subcontracted out all its installation work to an army of small businesses. Many of them will have lost hundreds, if not thousands of pounds in unpaid invoices. They have been told by the company that they are unsecured creditors.

Consumer experts said the case shows the importance of using a credit card when making big ticket purchases that are due to be delivered some time after payment, as consumers are protected on purchases over £100.



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