Wilko’s situation: how can I recover unpaid debts from a business facing insolvency?

With Wilko’s administrators beginning to break up the collapsed discount retailer and dozens of stores facing closure, it is also a challenging time for suppliers and business partners seeking debt repayments for products and services provided to the business.

Director Sara Beaumont, a specialist in resolving commercial disputes at WHN Solicitors, explores the various strategies and legal options available to creditors in such a scenario.

Dealing with a debtor who may be on the brink of entering into an insolvency process can be a challenging and complex situation for creditors. When faced with such suspicions, it is essential for creditors to navigate the legal landscape carefully to maximise their chances of recovering the debt owed to them.

Collecting a debt from a debtor who may be entering into an insolvency process requires a strategic and informed approach. Creditors should begin with open communication, explore negotiation and, when necessary, consider legal action. The various stages are outlined below:

1. Maintain open communication

One of the first steps creditors should take when suspecting a debtor’s insolvency is to initiate open and transparent communication. This can involve sending written demands for payment or contacting the debtor directly to discuss the situation.

A polite and professional approach can sometimes lead to a resolution without resorting to legal action.

2. Review your contract

Before pursuing legal remedies, creditors should carefully review the terms and conditions of the contract. Understanding the contract’s terms, including any provisions related to defaults and remedies, can provide valuable insight into the rights and obligations of both parties.

3. Consider demand letters

Sending a demand letter is a common step in the debt collection process. A demand letter outlines the debt owed, any interest or charges accrued, and a deadline for payment. It serves as a formal notice to the debtor and can be a helpful first step toward resolution.

4. Negotiate a repayment plan

In cases where the debtor is facing financial difficulties, creditors may consider negotiating a repayment plan. This can be a win-win solution, as it allows the debtor to address their debt while ensuring the creditor receives some payment. However, creditors should be cautious and ensure that any agreement reached is legally enforceable.

5. Monitor for insolvency proceedings

While pursuing debt collection, creditors should remain vigilant for any signs that the debtor is entering into an insolvency process, such as liquidation, administration or a voluntary arrangement.

6. Seek legal advice

In cases involving suspected insolvency, creditors are advised to consult with a solicitor experienced in debt collection and insolvency matters, who can provide guidance on the best course of action and help navigate the complex legal procedures involved.

How to maximise the chances of debt recovery

Staying informed about the debtor’s financial situation and seeking legal advice are essential steps in maximising the chances of debt recovery in these challenging scenarios.

There has been speculation Wilko’s could be saved by a rescue deal by HMV owner Doug Putman or that some of its stores may be taken over by rivals including B&M, Poundland, Home Bargains and The Range. However, this may not resolve debt repayments for many small creditors, particularly with repayment demands sought from large organisations including Unilever and Proctor & Gamble.

It is important to remember that each situation is unique, and creditors should tailor their strategies to the specific circumstances at hand.

See also our article that explores the position for landlords when a tenant’s business faces insolvency.

Sara leads WHN’s team of specialist commercial debt recovery lawyers, providing advice to businesses on all debt recovery matters including internal credit control procedures, court action and enforcement. Should you require further advice regarding debt recovery please contact Sara on 0161 761 4611 or email sara.beaumont@whnsolicitors.co.uk.