Stricken Liverpool retailer Rapid Hardware suffered a “dramatic” loss in trade during the temporary closure of the city’s Central station last year, it has been claimed.
Rapid, which employs 100 people, collapsed into administration on Tuesday after failing to agree a deal with its bankers, Royal Bank of Scotland.
Managing director Martin Doherty broke the news to staff at an emotional meeting in the store’s canteen.
Administrators Philip Duffy and Sarah Bell from Manchester-based financial advisory and investment banking firm Duff & Phelps are now running the business, based at the former George Henry Lee building in Basnett Street, while they pursue a possible rescue deal.
Rapid, which sells DIY and gardening equipment, bathroom and kitchen suites, furniture, electrical appliances and lighting, relocated from its former home in Renshaw Street in 2009 to its current base.
Last year, Liverpool’s nearby Central station was closed for six months for refurbishment and did not reopen until October 22.
This, said Mr Duffy, was a key factor in its demise. He added: “High street trading conditions continue to be difficult for many retailers.
“The closure during much of last year of a local transport hub compounded this resulting in a dramatic loss of passing trade, the financial consequences of which were ultimately insurmountable.”
Figures from City Central BID, which oversees the city’s central retail core, reveal city centre footfall during the six months Central was closed was down by an average of around 5% and in some months by as much as 7%.
BID chief executive Ged Gibbons said: “The retail sector in the city centre was affected to varying degrees by the closure of Central station but the wider economic climate and lack of bank support is making it tough for retailers across the country.
“We hope that Rapid finds a buyer and continues to retain a presence in Liverpool.”
Mr Duffy repeated the call by Mr Doherty for a “white knight" investor to ride to the rescue of the family firm which has traded in Liverpool since 1971.
“We are now examining the financial position of the company and the store will remain open for business while this review is undertaken,” he said.
He said prospective purchasers of the business should contact Duff & Phelps directly.
Mr Doherty claimed that as late as last Friday he had pleaded with bankers from RBS for more time to turn the business around.
Last year, 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.
On Wednesday, concerned customers gathered outside the store anxious about recent purchases they have made.
Mrs Moran, 53, of Aigburth, said she spent £7,000 on a brand new kitchen just last Friday, and is now worried about what has happened to her money.
The money was deposited from her account, and she went down to the shop as it opened this morning to speak to staff.
She said: "It’s horrible for the staff and I feel sorry for everyone but I need my kitchen or my money back. They must have known about this on Friday."
Patricia Croston also said she would head to the shop to query a recent buy. She said: "Last month I spent £1,500 in Rapid on a 28-day delivery. It hasn't arrived yet and I've no idea whether I'll get it now."