What Warehouse Sales liquidation means for customers and suppliers

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Warehouse Sales was placed in voluntary liquidation on Tuesday 1 October 2013 after the company’s owners were unable to secure a buyer for the beleaguered business. This has resulted in seven company owned stores and one joint venture store being closed, most likely for good.

In an interview with Appliance Retailer, Damian Templeton from liquidator KPMG officially confirmed the process.

“The directors and shareholders appointed us on Tuesday,” he said. “We are only a couple of days in and we have a lot of work to do. The business was losing money and the directors had sought to sell the business and weren’t able to, so they made the decision to appoint us.”

Warehouse Sales operated four stores in metro Victoria, including the Carnegie outlet that also doubled as head office, and three stores in regional Victoria. An eighth store, in Wodonga, on the Victora/New South Wales border, was a joint venture with Anthony Cowan.

Templeton said “around 70 staff” would be affected by the liquidation, and that it was too early to say how many creditors the company had or its total debt position.

“All the stores are closed and we are doing an urgent assessment. It is unlikely the stores will open again and we are just working through what is the best way to realise the asset,” he said.

For warranty, gift voucher and lay-by holders, Templeton had bad news: KPMG is not in a position to deal with these enquiries and these people will be processed as unsecured creditors of the company.

There is slightly better news for customers who have paid for products but not yet received the goods. Templeton said “we need to work those claims through to see how those stand – there are a lot of legal issues that feed into that”.

And for suppliers looking to reclaim stock, Templeton said “that comes down to what the terms of the contract are between Warehouse Sales and the supplier”.

“We need to work through each of the claims that they make to determine whether those claims are valid or not, and then if the claims are valid, they may be able to collect their goods, if there are any there.”

Meanwhile, Anthony Cowan, co-proprietor of Warehouse Sales in Wodonga, has released a media statement, printed here in full:

“My sincere, heartfelt regret is expressed for the very abrupt closure and distressing treatment of the loyal and professional team at Warehouse Sales Wodonga. This team are not only wonderful employees, but also members of the Albury-Wodonga community that I belong to and highly value. My longstanding business has enjoyed the loyal custom of many friends and family throughout the community for whom my concern also extends.

“As the operator and shareholder of Warehouse Sales Wodonga, I was completely unaware of the circumstances leading to the unexpected closure of Warehouse Sales Wodonga. The action, initiated from Warehouse Sales head office, came as an unexpected and startling revelation.

“My family and I are currently overseas on a much planned and anticipated holiday and have been away since 12 September 2013. If there had been any hint of the crisis that has unfolded for Warehouse Sales, this trip would most certainly have been cancelled.  It is distressing to be so far away at this time.

“I extend my deepest gratitude to the staff of Warehouse Sales Wodonga. We have prided ourselves on running a business based on quality service, fairness and integrity, with a strong commitment to community involvement. My genuine concern is with the many loyal customers who may also be affected.”

‘Down For Maintenance’: Insiders confirm Warehouse Sales in liquidation
(Patrick Avenell; 3 October 2013)

Insiders at Warehouse Sales have confirmed to Appliance Retailer that the company is in liquidation and all stores have been closed.

“Warehouse Sales went into liquidation on Tuesday 1 October 2013; all stores are now closed and the business has ceased operation,” said our source.

‘Down For Maintenance’: Reports Warehouse Sales is in liquidation
(Patrick Avenell; 3 October 2013)

Anthony Cowan’s Warehouse Sales retail store in Wodonga is in liquidation, according to reports published today in The Border Mail.

There is also information suggesting the entire Warehouse Sales chain has closed, including its website being taken down and replaced by a notice saying it is “Down for maintenance”.

The Warehouse Sales chain is based in Victoria and is a part of The Narta Group, predominantly selling home appliances.

“Warehouse Sales is currently unavailable due to maintenance. It should be available again very shortly,” says the notice on its website. “We apologize for any inconvenience caused.”

The Border Mail is reporting that restructuring service providers KPMG has been appointed to handle the liquidation, which could affect 70 employees.

“Given the position of the business at this time we will cease trading and conduct urgent research on where the business is headed,” said KPMG partner Damian Templeton. “At this stage it is likely it will not reopen.

“One of the issues we are dealing with is whether people will receive their goods or a refund, but that is something we are still working through.”

The Border Mail claims to have been in contact with Anthony Cowan via email — he expressed surprise at this liquidation occurring while he was on a family holiday.

“The action, initiated from Warehouse Sales’ head office, came as an unexpected and startling revelation,” Cowan is quoted as saying.

Cowan started in the appliance industry in 1986 as a retail cadet at Myer, across the Murray in Albury, New South Wales.

Just over a year later, Cowan left Myer to join Warehouse Sales, his first stint with the company as an employee, where he remained until 1990.

Following this, Cowan moved to Melbourne to work at the newly opened Clive Peeters chain, before returning to Wodonga to work as an assistant manager at the Chandlers store.

During the mid-1990s, Cowan had a stint with Retravision before opening his first store, a Betta Electrical outlet.

Anthony Cowan was a leading Betta retailer until 2006, when he switched to his own retail brand called ‘Your Electrical Superstore’  and joined Narta, remaining at the same Wodonga site.

At the time of change, the Betta head office was coming out of a tumultuous period of restructuring, and Cowan said it was a difficult decision.

“I regret the whole situation,” Cowan said at the time. “I have some great relationships and many friends and those times will be remembered. It is time to move on in the next stage of our evolution.”

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