Two of the most recent dealer collapses, Hopkins Catering Equipment and Shop-Equip, look set to become the latest phoenix from the ashes companies, in a trend that seems to be growing stronger. Other outfits swoop in and nab the brand name and its assets, but without being hamstrung by a millstone of debts or pension responsibilities to previous staff members.
Now this is a clever play of the system, and as I’ve discussed before, it’s really down to the government to decide whether to close that loophole, as there will always be those ready to take an opportunity when it presents itself. I’m sure that won’t be any comfort to the raft of angry, out of pocket suppliers who have raged on the Catering Insight website and beyond, and I wish there was a solution for them to recoup at least the majority of their losses instead of the paltry amount an insolvency process usually garners.
But in these latest cases it is not simply a straight like-for-like revival, with Hopkins Frying Ranges setting itself up as purely a manufacturer and not as a dealership any longer. The former management team, led by Victoria Hopkins, is not involved with this venture, but the new owner is her brother Matt Hopkins, who will be keeping the family name running. This move does at least save quite a few jobs and utilise the considerable knowledge base of the previous firm’s manufacturing department. New fish and chip ranges are already in the pipeline, so the frying ranges outfit will be hitting the ground running.
And for Shop-Equip, the new asset and brand owner, Sous Vide Tools, looks to also be taking it in a different direction. MD Alex Shannon detailed to Catering Insight that the revived brand will be “offering a range of niche, high quality products that are not generally available elsewhere in the market”. Whether that means the business will essentially become a wholesaler rather than a dealer, selling to other distributors rather than end users, is still unclear. Look out for further coverage of these developments in next month’s issue, when Sous Vide Tools will be further revealing its intentions for this purchase.
But in both cases these deals could actually be a win-win for the industry. The revivals could both take dealerships out of the crowded marketplace to make it more sustainable, but without losing all of the industry knowledge and experience that could go down the drain when a company collapses. And with such a chaotic current background to the current UK business landscape, any win at all has to be celebrated.