With the demanding conditions that have plagued the retail industry over the past twelve months, business owners need to be aware of all the restructuring options available before it is too late.
COVID-19 has unfortunately resulted in reduced foot traffic, store closures, the accumulation of legacy creditors and significant deteriorations in working capital positions.
Even with the support of JobKeeper and other government initiatives buoying business ventures from early 2021 to now, many family and small businesses are sure to continue to struggle.
The idea of restructuring your business or reaching out for external help can appear scary and often seen as something to be avoided at all costs. However, business owners are not on their own when dealing with the difficult conditions facing them in their short-term future.
No one wants to see a business fail.
That’s why there are always options available to businesses. However, the longer a company holds off on making a decision, the more the business and its available options will deteriorate.
If companies and businesses can act early enough, their options include informal arrangements and advice, voluntary administration, and new restructuring reforms for small businesses.
With the availability of these options and the right people involved, there is no reason why a financially distressed small business cannot survive the challenging times and thrive in the future. All companies experience some form of distress from time to time and often at no fault of their own. The ones that survive focus on cash, seek appropriate advice from trusted advisors at the right time and act further on it.
Using the voluntary administration process as a restructuring tool allowed Tuchuzy (a well-known retailer in Bondi) to successfully deal with legacy creditors, refocus on high margin product lines, and ultimately, the company continued to trade profitably.
The key to Tuchuzy’s restructure was a ‘light touch’ administration to minimise costs and disruption to the business and closely working alongside the director to ensure the proposal submitted to her creditors would be acceptable than an immediate winding up scenario (of which it was).
There is a lot of flexibility and breathing space afforded in the voluntary administration process.
The administrator can quickly reset the cost base by exiting unprofitable stores, reducing the workforce, and focusing on only buying and selling favourable margin products.
Even when a liquidation becomes necessary, the process can be reasonably quick, fair and transparent if run properly.
The secret is to overcome the general stigma accompanying restructures and approach restructuring experts early who will ‘unemotionally’ explain each available option and provide an impartial recommendation that aligns best with the individual circumstances.
For a business with few creditors and a single location, the process of voluntary administration can be expensive and unnecessary.
Indeed, voluntary administration is often not appropriate for many small businesses due to associated financial costs and the hurdle accompanying a director relinquishing control.
The government has responded to this critique and offered an alternative. This alternative comes at a perfect time as directors are, once again, exposed to personal liability for insolvent trading.
The new small business restructuring (SBR) reforms offer a lower cost and far simplified restructure process, critical for small businesses to continue to trade after government assistance such as JobKeeper ceased in March 2021. The reforms add an essential new path that will assist many retailers.
Though there have been only a handful of SBRs to date, and their effectiveness to save businesses is yet to be appropriately evaluated, it is an option to explore in the right circumstances.
The COVID-19 crisis has put a severe strain on many previously successful businesses. Though the government and many advisors are attempting to ensure that they do not collapse, directors and business owners need to be proactive and engage early for them to work.
Often businesses approach liquidators and advisors at the point where their financial problems have become insurmountable, and a liquidation/shutdown is often the only option left. The timing of coming and asking for help can be the difference between a shutdown and the continuation of trading.
With proper preparation and an effective plan that considers all stakeholders, any business should be able to restructure and continue to trade.
If your answer to any of the below questions is yes, you should seek immediate advice from a trusted restructuring advisor.