Administrators hope to make a quick sale of Mid-lands independent bakery chain

M Firkin, after being called in to the family company last week.

The 136-year-old firm, which is the UK’s sixth-largest bakery chain with 53 shops, called in administrator BDO Stoy Hayward on January 10, saying sales had been hit by strong competition in the bakery market. Some 35 workers were laid off on January 11 in a bid to reduce costs.

Joint administrator Kim Rayment told British Baker he hoped to sell the business, which includes a bakery in West Bromwich, as a going concern, saving the remaining 408 jobs. “The business is trading merrily in administration,” he commented. “All the shops are open and production is continuing at the bakery. A number of parties have expressed interest, and we hope to have offers together by next week.”

Some of the tentative offers are from non-bakery players, interested in just the retail sites and not the bakery. Mr Rayment said the ideal solution would be to sell the entire business, but he would have to “separate the wheat from the chaff” when firm offers came in.

Mr Rayment also told British Baker that the local food market was finding trading difficult, with nearby Harvestime (2005) and Leicester-based Golden Wonder also in administration. But a recent mouse infestation had added to Firkin’s troubles, he conceded.

Shops were left with empty shelves when environmental health officers forced the temporary closure for a week. Firkin is due to appear in court next week in connection with the infestation.

Mr Rayment said the episode had led to a short-term decline in footfall. He said “Customers did come back, but perhaps not in as great numbers as before. But competition was the main reason. Traditional bakers are buffeted all round – by other bakers, fast food chains such as Pret A Manger and McDonald’s, and the supermarkets.”

M Firkin, founded by Mary Firkin in 1870, began making confectionery in 1954 and

moved production to its current bakery at Black Lake, West Bromwich, in 1958. Martyn Cavill, great grandson of the founder, is chairman, and Susan Elwood is MD. The chain has shops in Solihull, Birmingham and across the Black Country.