Holidays group Shearings collapses into administration with no hope of a buyer

Specialist Leisure Group, the business behind Wigan-based holidays firm Shearings, has been placed into administration.

Sam Woodward and Colin Dempster of EY’s restructuring team were today appointed joint administrators of the Specialist Leisure Group, the British hotel and leisure travel company specialising in escorted tours, short breaks, events and river cruises throughout the UK, Europe and worldwide for the over-50s.

The group employs more than 2,400 people across its 44 UK hotels and travel brands.

Specialist Leisure Group, which operates Shearings Holidays, National Holidays – trading as Caledonian Travel – UK Breakaways, Coast & Country Hotels, Bay Hotels, Country Living Hotels, and Wallace Arnold Travel, has ceased trading with immediate effect.

Bay Hotels, Coast & Country Hotels and Country Living Hotels will not reopen.

All tours, holidays and hotel breaks booked with the Specialist Leisure Group have been cancelled and will not be rescheduled.

The vast majority of customers are expected to have financial protection from one of the Confederation of Passenger Transport, Bonded Coach Holidays, ATOL or ABTA, or through their credit or debit card issuer.

All customers are advised to visit the Specialist Leisure Group’s website at https://www.specialistleisuregroup.com/ for further information, where they can also find relevant links and instructions on how to claim.

The administrators will also be making every effort to contact customers, whose travel plans have been cancelled as a result of the administrations or COVID-19, in writing with more information about making a claim.

Joint administrator, Sam Woodward, said: “The group has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic as all tours, trips and events have been cancelled and the hotels closed to the public, leading to a significant cash shortfall.

“The directors of the group have been in discussions with a number of parties, seeking a going concern buyer for the business.

“Unfortunately, despite interest in the group as a whole and in parts, no viable transaction structure was able to be agreed and, as a result, the group was placed into administration.”

Regrettably, the jobs of 2,460 employees, 2,207 of which were furloughed at the time of appointment, will now have to be made redundant.

“Approximately 70 employees will initially be retained to assist the administrators in disposing of the assets and winding down the business.”

Mr Woodward added: “Our immediate priority is to advise and support those employees and customers that have been impacted by the group’s insolvency.

“We are making every effort to contact all customers, who have had their bookings cancelled as a result of the administrations or COVID-19, with information to assist them in making a claim.

“Customers should be assured that claims do not need to be submitted immediately and refunds will continue to be accepted for up to six months.

“We will also be seeking to realise the remaining assets of the group’s business for the benefit of creditors and we are, therefore, seeking offers from interested parties.”

The business, which was founded in Oldham in 1919 by Herbert Shearing, served more than 170 destinations in the UK, Europe and further afield.

Its holiday offers ranged from coach and self-drive breaks to air travel and cruises.

Fears first emerged for the group on April 24, when it was reported it was seeking a buyer to avoid administration.

At the time, Specialist Leisure Group issued a statement saying: “The travel industry has been severely affected by the impact of COVID-19 and the inability to operate any holidays on government instruction.

“Specialist Leisure Group is actively in dialogue with its stakeholders, advisors and the Government regarding its options, which include the sourcing of the necessary financial support to enable the company to weather the storm of COVID-19.”

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