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Rapid Hardware shuts its doors

Bad week gets worse for beleaguered store

Written by . Published on February 7th 2013.


Rapid Hardware shuts its doors
 

THE shutters abruptly came down on Rapid Hardware today as receivers suspended trading in the ailing DIY business.

Administrators were called in on Tuesday just gone. Naturally, perhaps, they blamed last summer's temporary closure of Central Station for the downturn in its fortunes, saying the store would stay open while new investors were sought. Was an unfortunate blip implied?

One giant shopping crater was created
in one part of town to solve the sudden
problem of a hole in another

Today, however, there was a change of heart and with “immediate effect” the tills were closed.

“Final closure of the store cannot be ruled out,” reads an ominous statement from receivers Duff and Phelps.

City centre footfall was indeed down last summer when Central closed for a multi-million pound refurb - five per cent, according to figures by Liverpool BID. It left many small retailers in crisis.

Rapid Hardware Renshaw StreetThe march and march of Rapid Hardware in Renshaw Street before 2009

Independents like Matta's and News from Nowhere on Bold Street, told Liverpool Confidential at the time of their worries and how they had filed applications for rates relief to the council to offset the drop in revenue.

A giant in comparison, the loss of Rapid has been lamented on every discussion board and phone-in this week. But most people pointed to a far simpler nail, so to speak, in the coffin of the DIY business which opened in 1971.

Rapid moved its locks, its stocks and its workers from Renshaw Street - a place where you could park -  to the George Henry Lee building, on Basnett Street, a place where you could not. In doing so, many believe, the Doherty family's loss became B&Q's gain.

Cars and vans are what you take paint, shelving and workbenches home in, not trains. As HMV and Jessops have also found to their cost, most of the rest of the stuff Rapid stocks, you can buy in supermarkets or online. Rapid's USP was its warren of caves snaking ever further up the street like an advancing army in full drill-bit tungsten jacket.

Nobody much seemed to think the 2009 move was a good idea.

One giant shopping crater was created in one part of town to solve the sudden problem of a hole in another: The much-loved George Henry Lee business had moved into the brand spanking new John Lewis building in Liverpool ONE. There too, you can buy most of those those Rapid items – and, ironically, cart them home via its purpose-built, eponymous, multi-storey car park.

This new mess once again leaves the question of what is going to happen to whole streets of the city centre now laid waste. There is some cosmetic hope for Renshaw Street, with the Central Village plan, however developers may not have counted on the Occupy Liverpool people taking over and squatting the old Rapid premises this week, with, they claim, a full set of keys.

Rapid Hardware Renshaw StEven in black and white, Renshaw Street, in this picture, has more sunshine to it than it does today

However, Lime Street, with its rotting picture palaces, can hardly be top of the council's money-spending agenda.

Two years ago, one fairly senior city official, who will certainly not wish to be named, told Confidential if they had their way they would flatten the lot and put some grass there.

What, Lewis's included? Yes, Lewis's included.

Statement from the bean counters

Rapid Hardware - Everything Must GoRapid Hardware:
 Everything Must Go
On the 5th of February 2013, Philip Duffy and Sarah Bell, both of leading global financial advisory and investment banking firm Duff & Phelps, were appointed Joint Administrators of Liverpool based retailer Rapid Hardware Limited (“Rapid”) after the Directors filed a Notice of intention to appoint Administrators.

Following a review of the business, the Administrators wish to issue the following statement:

Philip Duffy, Joint Administrator: “Following a review of the business and its stock holding, the Joint Administrators have today suspended operations pending discussions with the Company’s main suppliers.
 
“The Joint Administrators are in the process of writing to all affected customers and employees will be notified of further developments. At this stage however, final closure of the store cannot be ruled out.”

Rapid is a family run department store based in Liverpool since 1971 in the landmark ‘George Henry Lee’ store. It recently completed a major refurbishment and today employs circa 100 staff retailing a broad range of DIY, decorating, furniture, kitchen and lighting based products.

Prospective purchasers for this business are advised to contact the Administrators directly.

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42 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Diane SweetmanFebruary 7th 2013.

Mother blames it on the stairs...

Mickeydrippin'February 7th 2013.

They made the big mistake of moving from Renshaw Street where there was handy parking and, the result of which, customers went elsewhere for their DIY products. Once they sub-let a large section of their store to Poundland, it was clear that the "writing was on the wall."

AnonymousFebruary 7th 2013.

Looking at comments on this sad story in various reports, people are universally citing the same problem, as does Mickey, above. The move to the centre of town smack in the middle of the obsessive pedestrianised streets has greatly contributed to the problem. Pedestrianisation assumes everyone is able to walk from the bus stop or everyone is going home with a small shopping bag. You can't get a car or even a taxi near half of the main shops anymore and that's another reason while people wil go to B&Q or the Trafford Centre.

You also have to look at the pressure that went on over this move.

The cheap landgrab of Liverpool One is without doubt a huge transformation and we lost little in terms of attraction with Foster House and the Holiday Inn even if we have handed half the city centre to Grosvenor as their private estate that we are allowed onto to spend money. Despite the hideous One Park West eyesore, it remains impressive to outsiders.

For me it only has one attraction and that is John Lewis's. I have been in Debenham's twice to see what it's like and it held no interest for me. If you recall, getting John Lewis to give up the prestigious and beautiful GH Lee building was the big draw for Liverpool One and their move seems to have been a success for them so far. (of course we also saw the the ruination of another popular Church St shop WH Smiths which has now turned into a glorified kiosk and I dont know anyone who bothers with it any more. it has gone from a welcoming shop to a dreadful, cramped, invisible backwater.

The gaps left by those shops that relocated to Liverpool One was just not thought through or properly considered within any strategy for the city centre and for a time there seemed to be a panic and probably a lot of pressure on shops to ensure Liverpool One was populated.

The future of the GH Lee building was uncertain. There was talk of Marks and Spencer going in there while they underwent refurbishment and the Rapid deal was on and off by the minutes.

So one wonders, given that Grosvenor took over the Renshaw St site, did they offer inducements to Rapid to move, cut some deals and in the process cut their throats? All to gag the concern over Church Street being borded up?And do they stand to make another killing on the Renshaw Street with the Central Village development and Merepark.
I wonder who is going in there and will this be new businesses or simply more relocations.

What next for the GH Lee building and who's next in the city centre, as businesses continue to fall into administration in Liverpool One itself. Like so much of the desperation to build apartments, retail outlets hotels and offices, of which we already have thousands standing empty. It is only making money for the speculators and developers with no demographic or economic strategy other than the mistaken idea that high rise buildings is the only solution. And the council and the Echo tells us to jump up and down with delight and gratitude for every slab being thrown up or promises of Shanghai on the Mersey.

AnonymousFebruary 8th 2013.

This is the micro-effect of a macro-decision.
Liverpool ONE - yes or no? It had to be a yes. A no-brainer. The right decision then and the right decision now.

But the secondary issues it would throw-up included GH Lee's/Rapid, as could be seen by anyone with an eye or an ear. Large building - split or keep as one entity. Keep it as one, then where is there a John-Lewis-size operation to move in, especially in a City where Owen Owen, Lewis's, TJ Hughes have already left a similar problem behind.

Enter stage-left the sprawling oddity of Renshaw Street. It was quirky, and to MY generation, it was what Lewis's and TJ's was for my parents and their parents - if in a different market.

I would put up with some of the tacky, blister-packed 50p 'tools', as I'm a DIY-er, and couldn't justify professional tools at professional costs.

But I also bought for the houses I've lived in 3 complete bathroom units from there, flooring I'd estimate that would cover more than an acres, heaven-knows how much paint/wallpaper, and plenty more besides, often on a whim when simply browsing from the bombed-out church to Ranelagh St.

They also had a nice way of filling the gap in my thinking without me even realising, as new doors, curious arty ideas and techniques, and more besides still dotted around my home testify.

But now, and for a few years now - certainly since they moved to Basnett St - Taskers have beaten them senseless on so many, many levels.

Did you know they didn't even stock replacement Xmas tree bulbs this year? The advice they gave when asked for some for a set bought from them only 12 months earlier? "Go to St John's Market."

And with that, I could hear the drums roll, and yesterday the whoosh of the axe falling sounded too.

Delusional management who took the idea of 'Taking over Renshaw St', which we all bought into to, a greater or lesser degree, and the praise it brought, and then corrupted it into self-aggrandisement setting up in the Palace of Basnett St. Fools.

Canute-like, you failed miserably. It's only what you deserve.

AnonymousFebruary 8th 2013.

The relocation to an area without parking was short sigted but so was the timing in 2009 the country was at the beginning of a huge recession and yet they thought it was a good time to take on the huge costs of a move.

The efective city centre has moved with liverpool one opening. Wealth generating uses need to be found for the vacated retail buildings, they need to support new businesses of all types, high quality offices and the like to help pull in investment from outside of the city and support entrapenurs in liverpool. Its crazy to just hope that retail will pick up again, e-commerce is just too cheep and so new strategys need to be found.

martha farquaFebruary 8th 2013.

Sad sad news, town almost looks derelict as it is...Liverpool 1 is just another mini Trafford centre.....something Berra change

only in LiverpoolFebruary 8th 2013.

Can somebody explain how Forever 21 got planning permission to knock down the historic NEMS offices, where the Beatles signed their first ever contract, and to build a new shop when there are so many superb and empty retail units in Liverpool City Centre?

3 Responses: Reply To This...
Paul WardFebruary 8th 2013.

Tell the council that you'll be bringing 20,000 jobs to the City and that you'll sue if they don't agree. Simple.

You Couldn't Make it UpFebruary 8th 2013.

Ha ha! Why don't they just say they'll bring 20,000 unicorns?

It's about as likely to be true.

John BradleyFebruary 12th 2013.

Where are these superb units? There are very few of the size the new one will be. Though if they had brought Blacklers back into use I'd be happy.

AnonymousFebruary 8th 2013.

Take a good old fashioned chandlers/ironmongery, throw in some of the old Lewis's as was, a bit of the wonderful Blackers and you had Rapid Hardware (they dropped the Hardware tag when they moved). You could park outside, even on a yellow line, grab a bag of loose nails or screws, and you were on your way. Businesses are like balloons. Inflate (expand) them by all means, but know when to stop, because if you don't the balloon will burst. As part of the planning consent for Liverpool One, Grosvenor were required to find an occupier for the GHL building, it was one of the conditions for signing up John Lewis as its anchor store. If you could turn back the clock, Rapid would have stayed in Renshaw Street, and be weathering the recession, the GHL would have become a shopping emporium inspired by Quiggins and Liverpool City Centre would have had some major, local even quirky traders to separate it from the anywhere-town disease affecting most centres. Martin D's dad started with one shop in Renshaw Street and built Rapid into something special. Let's hope Martin follows in his dad's footsteps and starts all over again. He would have lots of support.

AnonymousFebruary 8th 2013.

We need to open up the City Centre to traffic, the notorious "Big Dig" ruined the city, trebling the number of traffic lights and causing massive congestion, which we still have. Prior to the Big Dig it was easy to drive across the city, now because of pointless bus lanes and the narrowing of the streets, such as Renshaw Street and Dale Street, the city is dying and our useless council and their even more useless officers are not helping. Scrap the excessive parking charges and make more spaces available to the motorist. We have made this city too cyclist friendly and cyclists do not spend money in the same way as a shopper in a car does, not easy to get your purchases home on a bike. We need to take drastic action before the city becomes a ghost town.

1 Response: Reply To This...
The Urbane CyclistFebruary 8th 2013.

"Cyclist friendly"? Are you mad?

Liverpool is already very hilly but cyclists are even more vulnerable to accidents and inconvenience by stupidly-narrowed streets, jutting-out pavements, speed bumps, infuriating one-way systems, stopping and starting at traffic lights and blocked-off streets than motorists are.
I took my bike into Liverpool city centre a couple of years ago. I couldn’t go anywhere and ended up walking everywhere and pushing it.

Never again until they open up some roads and re-route the buses along the main roads again and not dangerously clogging narrow back streets like Hanover Street.

There's not even anywhere really secure you can lock a bike up!

SaladDazeFebruary 8th 2013.

Liverpool has been sold off and given over to the second-rate, the booze-sodden, the philistine, the phonily glamorous, the aesthetically-vacant, breeze blocks with marble facing and bottled foundations. The liquidity spewed up on one pavement leaves another exhausted and evacuated.There are too many tawdry shops, too many taste-free boozers, seeping around islands of decency. Mammon is building on foundations of poverty and disillusion. www.independent.co.uk/…/home-again-1219728.html… Now I'm off to parade outside Wooly's with me sandwich board. 3.bp.blogspot.com/…/end%2Bis%2Bnear%2Bcartoon.JPG…

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousFebruary 9th 2013.

hear hear. Theyve sold our city to soulless and avaricious for a cookie-cutter shopping precinct with all the same shops as everywhere and destroyed Liverpool's unique businesses in the process...

Stephen SlaterFebruary 8th 2013.

To anyone whi says the city is too cycke friendly, try riding a bike through town and keaving it locked in a safe place. Not easy. Drivers round here a dangerous but pedestrianised areas dont get any safer.

The only reason rapid failed is because it sold crap and tonnes of it. Crap that you would normally buy from a shop with a car park. It was the last of a dieing breed. City centre DIY stores had their days numbered and it was only a matter of time before the end arrived. Moving into an oversized store only made their problems worse.

Its a sign of the times when the only booming industry is boozing and its the one thing destroying the city. Thank god for the creative quarter and the few niche pubs and eateries setting up to give punters somewhere different to spend their cash. We cant spend it in rapid anymore.

AnonymousFebruary 8th 2013.

Never read so much shite as on here when you dreary misery guts get going, the city's never been better and all you do is moan. FFS it was a diy shop not the holy grail!

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousFebruary 9th 2013.

If you think Primark and drinking are the heights of pleasure - what is there in Liverpool thats unique? that was Rapid, that was Blacklers and all the small independents killed by the boring and the anodyne. I go to Manchester now, or Paris, or London - like my friends used to come here. Still great live music - wonder what the city can do to mess that up - ahhh - ban buskers thats it...

Leonard FowlerFebruary 8th 2013.

will the joe stop moaning about liverpool if he looks over the water he will how hard life is food banks while mps mayors dont go short

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousFebruary 8th 2013.

Can you repeat that in English please Lenny, maybe take a bit more water with it?

AnonymousFebruary 9th 2013.

Leonard, you need to go back to school.
You missed out on education.

JonelleFebruary 8th 2013.

I took ages to learn your way around the old George Henry Lee but once you did it you were its master. Departments followed each other in turn as you strolled through the delightful building.

Subdividing the building so that natural routes through it were cut off made it far less navigable, and that’s why Rapid was less appealing in the Lee’s building. When I went in I had to be directed to what I wanted and then I couldn’t find my way out again. This happened several times.

With the old shop in Renshaw Street you just stepped in and browsed, walking the length of the place and able to step out again through another door to continue on your way. This is a far more appealing experience to the shopper.

No doubt the Council wants to manage Renshaw Street's decline at a greater speed; as it has done already with Dale Street, Hardman-Leece Streets and we hear, Hope Street.

AnonymousFebruary 8th 2013.

What about the staff?!

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousFebruary 9th 2013.

Not as helpful or polite as they were in the Renshaw Street shop

AnonymousFebruary 10th 2013.

I have to respectfully and forcefully disagree with that. For one thing, they're mostly the same staff and, secondly, my experiences with them have been exceptional. I'd argue it was one of the few things they had going for them, the quality of service. However, my point was that everybody on here seems to be looking at this from the point of view of customers or of city planners - what about the 100 or so people left without work? How many will be left long-term unemployed? They seem to employ a fair few young people too. What if they are in education? They can't sign-on I believe.

AnonymousFebruary 9th 2013.

Give it to the artists! Imagine a collective of studios and workshops, an arts market - flea markets etc etc. The sort of thing that would invigorate an increasingly limpid area of the city, create a real 'draw' and create a focus for the next generation of creatives! Now - who owns the building?

3 Responses: Reply To This...
John BradleyFebruary 9th 2013.

Turn into a science and engineering workspace where the true creatives can work.

AnonymousFebruary 9th 2013.

No wait...I have a brilliant idea....Student Flats!

AnonymousFebruary 10th 2013.

There isn't one single company who could realistically move into there so in my opinion a multi-purpose creative and commercial space would be a great option. A sort of Quiggins-like (not as creepy though) alternative to St Johns, stick a gallery in there maybe.

Reader XxxFebruary 9th 2013.

Can we just pause for a moment and grieve for a lost friend? Rapid has given many of us good service over a long period of time and employment to a significant number of people. OK it was not a good decision to move to the GH Lee site - and some of us thought so at the time - but we didn't have all the facts. Nevertheless we should be gateful for the good years and raise a glass to the Doherty family and their colleagues for all that they have done for this city, and wish them well in the future.

5 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousFebruary 9th 2013.

Why stop there?
Why not tie some flowers to the door handle, start a page on facebook and overdose on sentimentality and gushing nonsense

AnonymousFebruary 9th 2013.

B&Q are doing a good offer on candles if you want to hold a vigil.

AnonymousFebruary 9th 2013.

Wash yer mouth out, at least show some respect for the dead and get em in Poundland, as it is they who hold the emotional torch for our dear fallen friend

Last time I held Vigil was when I was playing with my Tracy island set

AnonymousFebruary 10th 2013.

Great Scott!

AnonymousFebruary 10th 2013.

All the best to them, very good people by my reckoning, but remember: Rapid was not a charity. It was a commercial enterprise designed purely to yield profit. What about the staff and customers who have been left penniless?

Reader XxxFebruary 9th 2013.

So this is the city I know and love....

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousFebruary 10th 2013.

Shower of bastards, aren't they?

AnonymousFebruary 10th 2013.

I think you have been listening to too much Billy Butler.

SaladDazeFebruary 12th 2013.

Poundland? Everything under a pound. Except the staff who were there for nowt, As slaves.

SaladDazeFebruary 12th 2013.

And, while you're doing those big adverts for West Tower etc., please note www.guardian.co.uk/…/london-shard-city-leftwing…

Margo GillsonFebruary 13th 2013.

Sympathy to all the staff. But we ordered two shower enclosures on 3rd feb and paid. Deposit. How they had the nerve to take the money the staff must have had some idea things were not going well. We have had good service in the past . We will be way down the list for a refund. Hope there are not to many people in the same position

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousFebruary 16th 2013.

I can confirm the staff on the floor who took your money full expected you to be receiving that shower enclosure and for themselves to still be in work. I Hope you will get your money back.

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