Devonshire Pines latest accounts reveal pre covid losses in the millions.
Once one of North Devon’s largest employers and most profitable companies is now losing millions, according to its latest released accounts at Companies House.
During its height, a company was making 5 million pounds a year, now its latest accounts show losses over one million, following the year before losses of another half a million.
The losses are mainly before the period of Covid, and it’s expected the next set of accounts will show the Covid year even worse with even heavier losses.
Devonshire Pine Ltd in Bideford reported a turnover of just around 7 million pounds, compared to its height, which saw a constant 20 million for several years.
The company also recently ceased manufacturing resulting in laying off hundreds of local staff from the area as production came to a halt. All the factories machinery auctioned off to the highest bidder.
The latest figures are now causing great concern to the remaining employees.
As the word spreads around both Bideford and Barnstaple and the surrounding area’s concerns continue to grow for the longevity of the once flourishing company.
Devonshire Pine started out In 1992 in business, spraying unfinished pine furniture before going into manufacturing.
Led by local businessman Peter Hockin, a former furniture sprayer himself, Hockin and his company Devonshire Pine Ltd went onto through the assistance of support from quality pine furniture retailers across the UK, grew to a valued turnover of homegrown produced products to the tune of 8 million pounds, a turnover that constantly produced a million pounds a year profit.
As the fashion of pine furniture started to wain around 2003, the company dipped its toe in importing furniture, which saw even greater success—a turnover of over 20 million and profits recorded around the 5 million figure.
Today pre covid figures are now seeing million pounds losses, causing the concerns around the local area and within the furniture industry in the UK to the business’s longevity.
So, where did it all go wrong?
Whilst the Director’s notes state the dramatic downturn is due to competition and market forces, ex-employees of the company in Bideford tell otherwise.
An ex-employee residing in Clovelly told Global247news how he feels arrogance and bad judgments are to blame for the crash in fortunes; he explained, ‘ Peter Hockin himself made some grave errors and is responsible for the downfall of his companies turnover.’
He then went into detail about a chain of events that unfolded.
‘ After a strong start in the manufacturing of pine furniture and reaching a profitable 8 million turnover, it was in 2003 that one of his former retailers came to the companies aid.
‘Pine furniture sales were on the wain, and the Company saw a vast drop in sales that would have resulted in a few million coming off the turnover.
‘ A retired retailer with a vast knowledge of sales, marketing and importation of furniture became an independent consultant to the company. Quickly, sales grew again in all sectors, both pine and imports.
‘ The importation side commenced under the then guidance of commercial director Ashley Howe, who had previously been the companies accountant before Hockin promoted him to director level.
‘ The consultant brought together a Chinese based company, Furniture Origins, whilst Ashley started shipping in the containers.
‘Hockin was actually against it at the time; I recall him being in a foul mood one day smashing his fist on the desk, shouting, ‘We are a pine manufacturer, these imports are blocking my warehouse, get it sold, or I’ll just put a stop to the lot it’ he said.
Despite Hockin’s outburst against the importation, the ex-employee goes onto reveal its success. He recalls, ‘ The furniture whilst called Oakleigh, was made of Ash, it flew out the door once the consultant got into the British retail market, container after container flowed into the factory and Hockin now started to extend the warehousing facilities on its current site in Bideford as well as purchasing more land.
‘The consultant then advised the company needed to move into the oak furniture market, which was becoming the new fashion in British homes.
‘Again, following the same methods in the sales and marketing sector, Devonshire Pine imported in total 2 solid oak ranges, the company was flying, and the turnover hit 20 million for several years and record profits’, he recalled.
‘We couldn’t get enough stock on many occasions; as soon as it was coming in, it was going out, and the majority of the British furniture market wanted to use Devonshire as a supplier, we even smashed it through the 2008 recession, he stated.
‘Turnover was maintaining at 20 million despite the country being in a bad financial position; it was nothing short of a miracle for the company at the time, although boredom and greed cut in.’ he explains.
In 2010 according to the registered accounts at Companies House, Devonshire Pine Ltd terminated the contract with the consultant, and the companies records demonstrate it never recovered.
‘ The truth is Hockin got greedy as well as making so much money, got bored’, reveals the ex-employee.
‘Hockin became more interested in going on long cruises with his wife and fellow director Sharon Hockin; he made the fatal mistake in many eyes of staff of putting the former head of transport, Andy Waddell, in charge of the running of the company.
‘Waddell didn’t have a clue and was a person of a very jealous nature, but he held Hockin’s ear, Waddell and Hockin waited until their consultant was in New York on holiday with his family, when they started bombarding him with emails and overseas calls attempting to cut commissions and change sales structure procedures set up by the consultant, Waddell would smirk and laugh as he dispatched the emails’ recalls the former employee.
‘He was enjoying harassing him; he was getting off on it, attacking the person who had done and set up so much for the company, he was disrupting what had worked so well between Hockin and the consultant, for things to work in his favour’ he reveals.
In 2010 after the consultant returned from his broken-up family trip to the USA, according to the former employee, Hockin dispensed of the consultant.
‘ He didn’t even ring him to discuss; I recall, from memory, I recall he sent him an email attempting to slash commissions and structures with an added termination clause of 2 weeks notice.
‘The consultant refused to sign it, and Hockin then expressed by email, he wanted to call it a day and pay him off as well as request a 2-year break clause from the Industry, although not realising the worth and dues of the contact’ he said.
‘Hockin was horrified when lawyers returned with the correct amount. It was nearly 2 million pounds. I remember him replying ‘You’re having a laugh’ to the representing lawyer; Hockin never made one phone call, although despite telling the trade and all our customers, he had dispensed of his services, he then upon realising what it was likely to cost, told him to return to normal!
‘ Hockin then involved Waddell, and they played out a plan harassing the consultant and demanding all sorts from him, clearly a nasty attempt to try and get him to resign or breach his contract, that didn’t work, and despite the harassment of the duo, the consultant stood firm until they sent him a termination notice on some trumped-up reasons’ he further revealed.
‘I do recall that one of the ones they had in the termination was that he had gone to an F1 motor race with a client in Brazil and not reported it to the board of directors, not that they had requested it anyway, the consultant reminded them in his reply he sent them both a picture from Brazil with the client. leaving Hockins and Waddells red-faced as they attempted to stitch him up.’
‘ In the office, we all knew what was going on; Waddell now had the pips on his shoulders and was trying to impress Hockin; it was though unfortunate to watch as they simply didn’t wish to pay their dues, despite the fortunes previously made.’
Although that was nothing to what to was about to unfold as Hockin ducked at every corner to avoid paying his dues.
According to another witness, Paul Mohammed, he witnessed the consultant call the home of Hockin to try and settle their differences like men, without the involvement of Waddle.
‘As a qualified solicitor who worked as well within the sales team built by the consultant on behalf of Devonshire Pine, the witness Mohamed described what took place.
‘Steve called up Peter Hockin directly at his home; he just wanted it all sorted out fairly; he’s always been a man’s man and would do a deal on a handshake – he’s a very loyal trusting guy, anyway, he called Hockins home, and Peter Hockin answered, when he realised it was Steve, he got his wife, Sharon, to ring the doorbell and claimed he had to go and would call him back, of course, he never did, he was just blagging.
‘I would go as far as saying it was a cowardly act; he was simply a very selfish man whose company was making a fortune who didn’t want to pay its dues fairly.’
Matters, though, due to what appears to Peter Hockin’s stubbornness and ability not to do the right thing and pay what he owed, turned worse for the company, after all the dirty tricks.
The ex-employee picks up on what took place and has never seen the company Devonshire Pine recover.
‘ Eventually, the parties settled out of court, the settlement was nowhere near what it should have been, and Hockin thought, through his tactics he had gained a financial victory, but unbeknown to him at the time, due to fact sales were falling, Devonshire Pine’s Chinese Supplier had been in touch with the consultant. The consultant accepted the misery offer from Hockin and headed to Dalian in China to take revenge; we didn’t know that at the time, and Hockin and Waddell were strutting the offices as if they had the cats cream.
‘He took what was offered after Hockin had played delaying tactics whilst on an around the world cruise. On his return, he made a low offer, and it was accepted, but that was just the start to the demise of Devonshire Pine as a supplier.’
The Ex-employee then revealed the disaster that was to follow for Devonshire Pine Ltd and how their turnover crashed.
‘At the time we were unaware our own supplier had done a deal with the consultant of previous, whilst many had suspicions as the same furniture entered the UK directly to customers, Hockin wasn’t having any of it, turnover was taking a nosedive, we had customers now buying directly from China, both because the product was cheaper, but also the ethics of Hockin were hitting the market, customers were not impressed, the smaller customers stayed loyal, but the larger buyers dispersed.’
A further blow came the next year when the supplier cut supply totally to the company costing Devonshire Pine millions in revenue.
‘We were left with no stock of our best selling range; we couldn’t fulfil orders and lost millions of pounds of business, and from that day, the business never recovered, Waddell continued to run the company and today is now the Managing Director, the turnover has only ever decreased since his tenure, under his tenure I resigned, I could see it was only heading one way.
‘Hockin himself, I understand he states he’s semi-retired and his daughter and Waddle now run the company, and they are making a pig’s ear of it, well the figures show that when a company is losing over a million pounds per year and that’s before the pandemic.’
‘Although I could guess you could call it Karma, Hockin & DP lost a lot more, and we are taking millions instead of doing the right thing and paying off Steve, the consultant at the time’, he finished.
Global247news contacted Steve this afternoon after the latest accounts revelation for his views and versions of events; he told us:
‘It’s a period of my life, I try to forget, it was over 10 years ago now, but yes, they rolled me over, that’s true.
‘It was life-changing as all the pressure at the time cost me my 18-year-old marriage and disrupted my life with my then young 4 children.
‘I gave Devonshire Pine everything; as a retailer at their start, I sold millions of pounds of their furniture and then led their sales and marketing for around 7 years before they did what they did.
‘At the time, it was disgraceful, and to this day, I don’t really know why it happened although I’ve heard things and hold my own thoughts which I don’t really want to go into, he said.
On informing him of the latest losses, he said:
‘It doesn’t surprise me at all; Waddell has the people skills of a snail, he also doesn’t understand the market, let’s be honest, he’s a truck driver, that’s no disrespect to truck drivers.
‘Hockin’s key to success was that he employed good people previously to run the company, like Alan Bowes and Ashley Howe, of course, he got rid of them too, now he’s clearly run out of finding good ones, he’s gone through numerous Sales Directors since and none of them has been successful, and that shows in the figures.
‘ We had two imported ranges and delivered 20 odd million; they now have about 15 and only deliver 7 million; I guess that says something.
‘Hockin won’t go skint though; he’s got all the property and land in his Holding Companies, as returning to a profitable importer and distributor that’s another matter, I can’t see it personally.
‘He’s got no one at the base who understands the market, from what I understand from pals, they can’t even get the stock to open a new store from Devonshire, sounds a mess.
‘ I would take a guess next years accounts will show an even direr state, with Covid and everything; on top of that, shipping costs have gone through the roof, it’s not cheap to import anymore with shipments costing up to 20,000 bucks, last year they were $2,000, consumers will not be able to afford the end product once retailers apply their margins.
‘This scenario was always pending, many of us could see that in the game, it will go full swing now, UK manufacturing will restart, although I hear they have sold all their machinery off – oh well!
‘As for Hockin, he did what he did, only he knows why and I really don’t wish to comment further or think about that bloke; your readers can work that out for themselves, I’m sure’, Steve finished.
The future doesn’t look for the former North Devon giant unless fortunes change, and it’s no wonder their employees are concerned.