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A horrid thing to happen

And sorrow after sorrow took the place
Of all those natural joys

This recession sucks.

I know from the stories we have run on this site in the past year it might look as though I’m always glad for a bit of bad news, but that’s not true. Not bad news like this anyway.

Long & Somerville, a third-generation 75-year-old family-run merchant went into administration on Monday. On Thursday, the business and assets were sold to a new company, Buttles (Enfield). It’ll still trade as Long & Somerville, out of the site at Mollinson Avenue and jobs have been saved.

With no disrespect to the guys at the nationals, I’m glad that the business has remained with an independent, but I’m really sorry to see it sold at all. It’s horrible to have to write a story like this about people that you’ve known, liked and respected for many years.

I know I’m not the only one to feel like this either, the news of the company’s closure was greeted with shock and sadness by pretty much everyone and there is a huge amount of sympathy for Stuart and Robin from everyone who knows them.

If anyone needed any more evidence of just how badly this industry has been hit by this current recession, then this is it. And it’s especially cruel to a small business with high borrowing, a balance sheet that the administrator described as ‘out of kilter’ and falling sales.

Luckily, Buttles had been working very closely with Long & Somerville for a while now on a different project and were able to step in a finalise a deal with the administrator quickly. There’s no way that anything like this can ever, ever be painless, but at least it didn’t drag on and on and now, hopefully, everyone can move on.

Unfortunately, as NMBS’s Rod Bennion pointed out when I interviewed him for next month’s issue of Independent Merchant, this is what happens in a recession: well-run, long-established companies go to the wall due to circumstances beyond their control. And it happens more as the economy moves out of recession than when it goes into it. There will be more stories like this.

Like I said, this thing sucks. It bloody sucks.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Fiona Russell-Horne
Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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