The Japanese company behind the pawnbroker Albemarle & Bond pulled the plug on the business amid concern that its losses would increase after Brexit, it has emerged, shedding light on the mysterious closure of its 113 shops last week.
Albemarle & Bond and its sister company Herbert Brown pulled down their shutters without warning last Friday, leaving customers concerned that they may never retrieve their belongings, pawned for short-term cash.
The Tokyo-based parent company Daikokuya Holdings has so far offered no update to customers on the future of Speedloan Finance, the UK subsidiary that owns the two pawnbroking brands and employs nearly 400 staff.
But in a statement issued to investors in Japan, it said: “Since acquiring Speedloan Finance in October 2014, the company [Daikokuya Holdings] has been working to improve its management.
“However, despite the implementation of various measures to improve management such as moving the head office, flattening the organisation, and reducing the number of employees, the net profit for the year ended 31 March 2019 was a deficit of £7m.
“Moreover given the increased likelihood that the UK will leave the EU, losses are expected to increase, so we have decided to withdraw from the UK business.”
Daikokuya, which does not appear to have published any explanation of its decision in English, said it was now seeking a buyer for the company’s assets and had begun a voluntary redundancy problem for its nearly 400 staff.
The company has not responded to requests from the Guardian for comment.
In the aftermath of the closures, Speedloan Finance was criticised for “woefully inadequate” communication with customers hoping to get their belongings back.
The National Pawnbrokers Association (NPA), the UK trade body of which Albemarle & Bond is a member, said it was receiving hundreds of calls a day from worried customers who had been unable to get through to a helpline set up by the pawnbroker.
Ray Perry, NPA chief executive, said there were only 10 people working in Albemarle & Bond’s contact centre and they had been overwhelmed by demands for information. He said: “The industry is not impressed and we are quite angry about this. The provision made is clearly woefully inadequate and the information sent out is quite contradictory in places.”