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Liverpool's Rapid Hardware fights for survival

ONE of Liverpool’s most iconic retail names – Rapid Hardware – is fighting for survival.

Last night the family business, based in the former George Henry Lee building in Basnett Street, called in administrators.

Managing director Martin Doherty confirmed the company’s bank, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), had appointed administrators to run the firm’s affairs.

And he appealed for a “white knight” investor to ride to the rescue of the stricken retailer.

Staff at the Williamson Square store wept as Mr Doherty broke the news to them in a meeting in the canteen yesterday afternoon. It is understood he insisted on speaking to staff personally.

“It is heartbreaking,” Mr Doherty told the ECHO.

“Many of our staff have been with us for a long time – through thick and thin. They have sacrificed a lot to try to get us through. They are part of the family and I hate what’s happening to them.”

The store is open for business as usual today under the control of administrators Duff and Phelps, a firm of global finance specialists.

Mr Doherty said he was disappointed he and his management team had failed to strike a deal with the company’s bankers to allow him to continue running the business.

He added: “We went to RBS with a proposal as late as Friday night but it was rejected. It’s devastating. I really felt that with patience we would have ridden this out and turned the corner.

“I’m desperately sorry for staff and gutted at the way things have turned out. Neither staff nor management could have tried any harder or done any more.”

Mr Doherty appealed to potential investors who may be prepared to rescue the firm and save the jobs of the staff.

He added: “Even at this stage we would be anxious to hear from investors who could help put together a rescue deal.

“I am talking about investors who would be prepared to sit down and discuss some kind of deal. This is not just about the management or simply about a great company.

“It is about looking after a workforce that is simply the best.”

Rapid opened up in Renshaw Street in 1971. Its core business was DIY and gardening equipment but its product range has grown over the years to include kitchen and bathroom suites, furniture, lighting and electrical appliances.

Rapid’s parent company, Rapid Group Holdings, had implemented an urgent turnaround strategy after reporting pre-tax losses of £2.2m for the 17 months to the end of June 2011.

This compared with a loss of £333,000 for the year to the end of January 2010.

In August 2009, Rapid moved its entire operation from Renshaw Street into 100,000 sq ft of the former John Lewis building located at Williamson Square.

Building owner Grosvenor took control of the Renshaw Street premises in a deal that also saw John Lewis relocate to the £1bn Liverpool One development.

In the period following the move, Rapid’s sales per month increased by 6% but this was lower than the directors had hoped as trading was hit by the recession.

Following the announcement of the losses Rapid took action to cut costs to improve its profit margins.

At that time it also said it was in the process of agreeing revised facilities with its bankers.

Source : Tony McDonough - Liverpool Echo

06 February 2013
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