'Allders only told us of problems days before collapse', says Croydon Council
A BOARDED-UP Allders is something Croydon Council says it is determined to avoid.
Council chiefs say they are working with the administrators to do everything they can to keep the iconic store open.
But if it does shut, then the council will work to attract other retail uses on to the site.
Jon Rouse, chief executive of Croydon Council, said: "We have to be pragmatic, because it might not be the whole of the store, it's huge.
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"The most important element in terms of the feel and the look of the town centre is the ground floor.
"And so our first priority would be about, at the very least, keeping that space active."
At a press conference at the town hall last Friday (June 15), Mr Rouse and Croydon Council leader Mike Fisher spoke of their frustration that Allders had left it so late to approach them for help.
Asked whether Allders should have contacted them earlier, Mr Rouse said: "In terms of asking for help and support and giving us the time and space to see what we could, then the answer is unquestionably yes."
The council only discovered what was happening last Monday, just days before Allders went into administration last Friday (June 15).
Cllr Fisher added: "I read some comments from Harold Tillman (owner of the Jaeger fashion group who saved the store in 2005) saying the council hadn't done anything to help them.
"He's saying this all started with the riots.
"There has been no approach from Allders to the council since August 8 last year for any sort of help.
"So I find Harold Tillman's comments incredible.
"And indeed that flies in the face of the statement which I see has been issued by Andrew MacKenzie (Allders boss) today which says 'with the considerable support already given by Croydon Council'.
"If they had come to us earlier we could have gone to regional government, we could have gone to national government, and looked at ways in which we might have been able to invest in the company to bring about the working capital that they needed.
"Coming to us after they had already been to court to appoint an administrator was far too late in the day for anybody to do anything."
Mr Fisher and Mr Rouse say they are unclear why Allders left it so late.
The council had offered Allders some breathing space by offering to defer its business rates.
Mr Fisher said: "Going forward we'll be working with the administrators to see what we can do to try and keep the shop open and staff employed.
"If that's not possible we'll be working with Jobcentre Plus to try and help people that lose their jobs and putting together an advice service for small businesses that are affected because they either run concessions or in some way are associated with Allders."
No time limit has been put on negotiations to save Allders, administrators Duff & Phelps said this week.
A spokeswoman for the company said because the business was being sold as a going concern they were working with the shareholders to find a buyer and no time constraints had yet been put on those negotiations.
A separate statement from the administrators said: "The store remains open for business and concession partners are continuing to support the business during the administration. Outstanding customer orders are being fulfilled."
The statement added: "The joint administrators are currently exploring all potential options to maximise the realisation for the company’s creditors including a sale of the business."
Andrew MacKenzie, chief executive of Allders, said: "We will now work with the administrator to continue ongoing discussions with funders and other interested parties in the business."