Footprint Tools to shut with 50 axed

Historic Footprint Tools is closing with the loss of 50 jobs after being hit by a combination of declining demand and the rising cost of essential equipment for its new plant in Sheffield's Upper Don Valley.

The 134 year old, family-owned company, which rode out the recession of the mid-1980s and 90s, decided to call it a day while it was still in a position to pay its staff and all its debts in full, and complete existing orders.

"It's really sad and we are desperately sorry that it has come to this," said Footprint's managing director and Past Master Cutler, Christopher Jewitt.

"We believed we should act with a degree of dignity and in a controlled manner that looks after the interests of our customers, our suppliers and, as best we can, our former employees."Footprint has taken what is the uncommon step of seeking a Members' Voluntary Liquidation, which can only occur if a company has sufficient assets to pay everyone in full, as opposed to a Creditors Voluntary Liquidation or administration, which occurs when assets are insufficient to pay creditors in full.

The decision comes months after Footprint had been looking forward to a bright future, following a move from its ageing, multi-storey factory in Hollis Croft, in Sheffield city centre, to more modern facilities, close to Owlerton Stadium.

An essential part of the relocation plan involved major investment in a German forging machine which would have opened up opportunities to move into hi-tech markets.

But, the recession dealt Footprint a double blow.

While the collapse of the pound pushed the cost of the vital machine up by 25 per cent, demand for Footprint's top quality, Made in Sheffield tradesmen's tools from its main markets in the UK, North America and Australasia, fell by up to 50 per cent. To make matters worse, Footprint had tied cash up in building up stocks to ensure as seamless a switch from Hollis Croft to Owlerton as possible.

"Bridging the financial gap became unaffordable. It's not the plan that was wrong, or the business model, it was a series of events coming at the wrong time, when we were most vulnerable," said Mr Jewitt.

Footprint looked at a number of options in a bid to keep the company going, including a merger or sale, but came to the conclusion that without the new forging machine, it would not be viable.

"Without a forge, it isn't a business," said Mr Jewitt. "We looked at buying forgings in from other people, but we would not have controlled the quality or the price and it would have taken investment in getting our tooling to fit their machines."

Graham Stuart-Harris from leading local independent accountancy firm, Barber Harrison & Platt, has been appointed as liquidator.

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