PEEKS, the party supplies company which went out of business amid the coronavirus lockdown, owed £844,031 more than it had in assets, figures suggest.

The business, whose shop was in Christchurch, had been a fixture in Dorset for more than 70 years.

But the Covid-19 crisis forced it to close the store in what should have been a busy spell after three difficult years of trading. The lockdown put paid to hopes of restructuring the business.

Peeks of Bournemouth’s directors decided last month to voluntarily wind up the company, putting it in the hands of liquidators.

Peeks Party Supplies in Christchurch stops trading and calls in liquidators

A statement of affairs filed at Companies House says its unsecured debts included £132,000 to its landlord, £121,760 to 88 trade and expense creditors, £204,947 to 25 employees and £11,000 to HMRC in PAYE and national insurance.

Debts to preferential creditors, who can expect to be paid, consist of £20,388 to staff in holiday pay and arrears and £672 in pension contributions. Lloyds Bank is owed £69,832 secured by a charge on the company’s assets.

Directors Nick and John Peek were owed £300,952 and £105,192 respectively, but the statement estimates there is only £24,545 available for them.

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Portland Business Recovery, which was brought in to wind up the company, said last month that the 25 redundant staff were being helped to make claims from the Redundancy Payments Office.

It said that Peeks had already been “significantly affected” by Brexit as the hospitality trade cut its spending. The business had begun downsizing and cost-cutting in January.

The postponement of the Euro 2020 football tournament and the summer Olympics, as well as the cancellation of parties for the 75th anniversary of VE Day, took their toll on the business.

Although Peeks of Bournemouth was incorporated as a company in 1966, the business had been around since 1946. It sold partyware online, from a mail order catalogue and from its Christchurch shop.

Nicola Layland from Portland said in May: “Covid-19 has had an unprecedented effect on companies, particularly those servicing the hospitality trade.

“Unfortunately the government support was not sufficient to keep the company going during its closedown.”

She said the directors had decided to call in liquidators early, rather than continue to rack up debts which could not be paid.