Cooper Callas rejects phoenix claims

Administrators working for troubled bathroom and kitchen distributor Cooper Callas have rejected claims that the company may be relaunched as a phoenix operation by owner Coopers Distribution.

Cooper Callas entered administration on June 3, citing the loss of a key supplier – understood to be Franke – as the main reason for its decision.

Forty-one people out of a workforce of 68 have been made redundant.

However, the company is still trading and industry rumours suggest Coopers Distribution may be looking to sell off unprofitable parts of the business before re-emerging, led by managing director Phil Carr (pictured), who owns 52% of the company’s shares.

But speaking exclusively to kbbreview, joint administrators Mark Boughey and Matthew Haw of RSM Restructuring Advisory LLP said they were “working with key suppliers to clarify the ownership of the company’s stock and, once resolved, intend to conduct an orderly stock sale process with a view to maximising its value for the company’s creditors”.

“Coopers Distribution was the vehicle used to acquire Cooper Callas Limited in 2014,” they explained. “There are no ongoing discussions in relation to a ‘phoenix’ of the business to Coopers Distribution.”

Meanwhile, a senior customer service advisor at Cooper Callas told kbbreview that the company would continue to trade for “probably another month” to sell off remaining products but that no further stock was available after that.

Phil Carr was unavailable for further comment, but kbbreview understands that the Cooper Callas sales team have been told to look for other work, while RSM is “working closely with the managing director and the remaining workforce to oversee an orderly wind-down of the business”.

Established in 1875, Cooper Callas offers a range of 27,000 kitchen and bathroom products to around 1,200 independent retailers throughout Europe.

But it now joins Mark II and TC Bathrooms as another high-profile victim of the changing face of KBB distribution, with industry sources insisting other big names may suffer a similar fate.

“I feel terrible about the Cooper Callas situation,” said Phil Shaw, a director at showroom retailer Bathtime Northwest and website “I do feel, though, that there may be more casualties to follow. As the internet companies continue to grow at a phenomenal rate, their buying power increases to the point that they can buy huge quantities. Probably more than any distribution company could.

“More and more suppliers are being forced to supply direct, cutting out the middleman. Even we are getting to that position. We buy £100k per month from Mira direct, where 12 to 18 months ago that would have been bought through distribution. I will continue to buy as much as possible through distribution, but feel others will not have the same loyalty when manufacturers offer greater discounts to go direct. I wish Phil Carr and all that were involved with Coopers good luck the future.”

Retailers and suppliers are understood to have known about the problems at Cooper Callas for several months, minimising the impact on those affected. Smaller retailers are likely to fare worst, sources say.

“It won’t, in my opinion, affect customers or suppliers too much,” claimed Eamon Donnelly, chairman of kitchen supplier Uform. “There is a wide and varied choice of similar equivalent products on the market and retailers will advise customers accordingly.”

David Hollander, chief executive of Cooper Callas supplier Aqualisa, agreed: “Cooper Callas has not been trading effectively for several months now and I am sure retailers have found alternative sources,” he said. “This is not a market that is short of distributors.

“It’s a sad day when any business goes into administration. People are affected immediately in the organisation and our concerns should be with them. Also, any bad debts can affect other businesses and their people. But in terms of business going forward, I think [the damage] won’t be considerable.”

John Pollitt, sales and marketing director at KBB supplier JJO, said it was a concern that, despite Phil Carr’s experience, a business including brands like Ideal Standard, Roca, Mira, Kaldewei, Aqualisa and Saniflo had gone into administration. “These are brands which are available to the trade through several distributors,” he said. “The individual and collective ranges are immense, making stocking for a distributor very difficult. You only have to look at the Cooper Callas brochure – 416 pages of portfolio!

“I had the pleasure of meeting Phil Carr at an industry event just over 12 months ago. He has great experience with his previous businesses – Crosswater, Imperial Bathrooms and Polypipe. Successful businesses! But even with Mr Carr’s experience, he could not overcome the issue of stocking, distributing and making money out of established trade brands.

“It is a great shame to see another long established, well-respected distributor cease to trade. What does the future hold for distribution?”

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