A feather bedding maker collapsed after being badly hit by a shortage of supply from China due to the coronavirus pandemic and later due to bird flu, a report suggests.

Workers at Norfolk Feather Company in Diss were left in tears when the factory gates shut on October 3, 2022, leaving them jobless.

Problems included difficulties securing funding to keep trading and in finding appropriate senior management to manage operations and cash flow, according to a report to creditors seen by this paper.

In all, 43 employees were made redundant - but the dire state of the company's finances meant wage and holiday pay arrears of more than £90k, the directors' report to its creditors shows.

The luxury bedding firm supplied customers including Harrods, and could trace its roots back 90 years. Director Jo Landy joined former parent company Wycombe Feather - which was owned by her step-father - in 1986. Norfolk Feather Company started trading in 1993 and leased the premises.

The report describes a litany of problems to beset the £3.5m turnover business, starting back in 2019 when a major customer entered liquidation. Costs spiked during the pandemic as the flow of feathers and cloth from China were hit. There were also problems at the Port of Felixstowe and other ports, it said.

The company took out a £300k Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) loan in November 2020 to help it through.

But a "breakdown in internal procedures and management" in February 2022 led to the need for a cash injection from the group of companies. In April 2022 they lent it £75k to help it through, the report said. 

In May 2022 poor quality feather deliveries from Europe cost it an estimated £250k to £500, it went on. In June, a shareholder shelled out a £30k loan to pay wages. 

Despite the difficulties, there were hopes that the company could secure investment or support loans to keep it afloat but it wasn't to be and the business was deemed "no longer viable", leading to the closure of the feather mill at the start of October. 

More than 130 creditors are listed for big and small sums. The total owed to them is calculated at more than £2.5m.

One of the biggest creditors listed is HMRC with a bill outstanding of £237k. Others listed include a bank (260k), a textile company (£165k) and a business lender (£137.5k). Wycombe Feather Group is also down as a creditor (£295k) as is associated company J Cummin Ltd (£91k). 

A shareholders' meeting on November 28 passed a resolution to voluntarily wind up the company, with Thomas Guthrie and John Rimmer of BRI Business Recovery and Insolvency appointed liquidators.

Joint administrators Mr Guthrie and Mr Rimmer acknowledged the depth of feeling at losing a heritage business in the town.

"Norfolk Feather Company Limited approached BRI Business Recovery and Insolvency for assistance in dealing with the company’s financial affairs," they said.

"Various options available to the company were explored, however due to circumstances beyond its control, the rescue option was no longer viable and the company ceased trading on 3 October 2022. The company entered liquidation on November 28, 2022.

"We appreciate the depth of feeling regarding a heritage business ingrained within the local community which formed nearly 30 years ago, providing jobs to many in the area and household products to many more further afield.

"We have endeavoured to make the known creditors and employees aware of the situation as soon as possible.

"Confirmation of the liquidation and details of how to claim as a creditor will be circulated to all known creditors in the coming weeks.

"Should you have any queries regarding the Company’s liquidation, these should be directed to the senior case administrator, Emma-Jayne Johnson, at ejohnson@briuk.co.uk in the first instance."