DIY chain to go into administration

Peter Cripps,Pa
Wednesday 04 May 2011 16:15
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Nearly 4,000 staff at Focus DIY faced an uncertain future today after the struggling retail chain said it plans to put itself into administration.

The private equity-owned firm has asked Ernst & Young to act as administrator, saying it had no alternative after it defaulted on a credit facility.

Focus, which has 178 stores and employs 3,919 staff, is expected to trade as normal until an administrator is officially appointed.

The company underwent a controversial company voluntary arrangement in 2009 when it sought to reduce its rent burden from landlords as it battled for its future.

The company's website today said it was unable to take orders online. It is understood that it could take days for an administrator to be appointed.

Private equity firm Cerberus bought Focus in 2007, reportedly paying just £1. Focus was heavily indebted at the time and Cerberus said it would pay off the firm's £174 million of debts.

It appointed Bill Grimsey, the former boss of the Big Food Group, which owned the Iceland frozen food chain, as chief executive in charge of a new management team.

It is understood that Cerberus invested some £200 million in trying to turn the company around.

But the chain struggled in recent years against tough competition from B&Q and Wickes. The DIY market has suffered amid falling consumer confidence and depressed house prices.

The Crewe-based retailer staved off administration in its CVA in 2009 but continued to struggle in the tough economic environment. In January it again started negotiating with landlords to extend its rent repayments.

The company was founded by Bill Archer and a business partner in 1987, with six stores in the Midlands and the North of England.

It grew through a number of acquisitions, including Do It All in 1998 and Great Mills in 2000, before rebranding to Focus.

In September 2000 it acquired Wickes, which targeted trade customers, but this was sold to Travis Perkins in 2005.

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