Branches sold, customer goods protected and jobs saved at Solent Cleaners

Portland Business Recovery has successfully assisted in the restructuring of long established South Coast chain of dry cleaners Solent Cleaners, which was set to close in January, by finding buyers for a number of branches and in turn has protected customer goods and saved jobs.

Although the present company was formed in 1987, the business originally began operating in Hampshire in the mid-sixties and has always been owned by generations of the same family. The previous owners were grandchildren of the founder. This historically successful business started experiencing financial difficulties as a result of the long term decline in the consumer requirement for dry cleaning of wool fibre and structured garments such as suits, as man-made washable clothes become more popular.

Solent Cleaners shop

The company had 10 outlets in Hampshire, Surrey and West Sussex including a main laundry site in Farlington, Portsmouth. It employed 63 staff across these locations and at the Havant head office. In December 2019 the company informed customers that it was no longer taking in new work and a plan had been implemented to contact customers to arrange for them to collect clothing items as the shops were likely to close. The physical assets within the company were believed to be of limited value on the open market due to the general decline over recent years in the dry cleaning industry.

At the time the Director said:

“Increased employee costs, rents, rates, and spiralling energy costs have reduced profit margins on a declining turnover.  We have tried to find alternative revenue streams, such as laundry and ironing services, and reduced overheads where possible but it has not been enough. We have supported the company through personal funds but do not have the resources to continue”.

Portland assisted the directors with the winding down of the company’s operations prior to a liquidation. This involved a consultation period with staff across all 10 premises and contacting existing customers to ensure the many items of clothing and homeware were collected and as a result, collecting the outstanding customer debts due to the business. Early discussions took place with Timpsons, as the market leader in dry cleaning, which resulted in one of the company’s stores being successfully taken on. A number of the profitable stores were also able to be saved by another party which resulted in an enhanced asset recovery and a number of creditor liabilities being eliminated.

In July 2020 the Director commented:

“In conjunction with our agents and Portland Business Recovery we were actively seeking interested parties to take over some or all of the outlets. We were hoping that something could be salvaged and thankfully a viable solution was found that ensured that some branches could continue to trade with a long-term strategy in place. We are thankful to staff, some of whom have been with the company for over 30 years, and our customers who have been very patient during this difficult period”.