John Pye Auctions has recorded its highest figures in its 52-year history, with a 79% sales increase compared to pre-lockdown, after handling some of the biggest cases in the fall-out from Covid-19.

The Bo'ness auction house said it has seen "unprecedented liquidations with corporate insolvencies, product returns and failed deliveries from the biggest names in e-commerce and high street retail to millionaire bankruptcies".

In the last two months the online auction house has cleared out more than 240 retail stores across the UK, after John Pye was appointed exclusive agents by the administrators of Caversham Finance Limited - trading as BrightHouse - to value, clear, transport, securely store, data wipe, process, market and sell more than 22,000 asset and stock items.

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The online auction house has also seen a 94% increase in bidders per auction.

Adam Pye, managing director at John Pye, said: “This is the sixth recession John Pye has supported clients through. We had thought the great recession of 2008 was the deepest, but this is proving to be bigger. Locking down a whole economy for the best part of three months has had a huge effect on restructuring and insolvencies.

“We have never been busier in our 52-year-history.

“It’s bitter-sweet as some of our long-standing regular retail clients have gone into administration, such as BrightHouse. However, it’s a sad fact of business and economic cycles. It is tough now, but we always see the phoenix from the flames rising from the ashes; new entrepreneurs, businesses and innovations are born from these situations, which breathe life into the economy. After all, small to medium sized businesses are the backbone of the economy.

“The fall out of times like these and the stock and asset auction sales like ours are a huge opportunity for such fledging businesses, as well as end user bargain hunters looking for best value.

“Once we’ve taken the stock it enters one of our sites across the UK – most likely Edinburgh, Chesterfield, Nottingham, Marchington or South Wales – where it is checked, processed, and uploaded to our online platform ready for bidding.” 

The online auction house has sold 229,916 lots during lockdown, with 94,600 in June alone.

Mr Pye added: “As an online auction house we were well placed to weather lockdown. Our showrooms had to close for three months; however, it gave us time to liaise with clients and hit the ground running once measures were eased, which has clearly payed off.

“During this period, we have also held three charity auctions during lockdown, raising more than £70,000 for charities and organisations across the UK to help support those that need it most during this difficult time.”

Travel giant Tui has revealed the pandemic pushed it to a €1.1 billion (£995 million) loss in its third quarter after it halted holidays, but insisted demand was bouncing back.

The group's losses for the three months to June compare with year earlier earnings of €102.3 million (£92.6 million) and came after it had to suspend its operations for most of the quarter amid global lockdowns, while it was also hit by extra costs from the crisis.

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It said widespread cost-cutting action helped limit losses as it pushed ahead with a plan announced in May to slash group costs by 30%, costing up to 8,000 jobs worldwide.

The group also said in July it was shutting 166 or nearly a third of its high street stores in the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

Tui's trading update laid bare the impact of the pandemic and closure of its operations as it said revenues crashed 98% to 75 million euros (£68 million) in the quarter.

Bookings have also plunged 81% for this summer and are 40% lower for a scaled-back winter programme.

Tui said demand was beginning to return since its operations tentatively got back up and running in mid-May, with holidays resuming from mid-June as global restrictions began to ease.

It has seen 1.7 million new bookings made since holidays restarted, it added, with bookings for summer next year up by a "very promising" 145%, though it has cut its programme by a fifth.

But the holiday sector's hopes for a rebound this summer were dealt a blow by recent new UK restrictions on travel to Spain.

"Full-year 2020-21 will be a year of transition and we expect a normalised level of business from full-year 2021-22," the group said.

Tui secured a second credit line from the German government on Wednesday, helping boost its battered balance sheet.

Fritz Joussen, chief executive of Tui, said: "Our integrated business model is proving its worth even in the crisis.

"The implementation of our hygiene and safety concepts and the relaunch of the business could be implemented in the flight, hotel, ship and destination segments from a single source - this has given our guests a high level of security."

He added: "With the second government credit line, we are prepared if the pandemic again has a significant impact on tourism."

Gas and electricity supplier Bulb has been ordered to pay £1.76 million by the energy watchdog after overcharging customers and blocking switches.

Ofgem said around 61,000 consumers were affected by the failures between 2017 and 2020.

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The regulator found that Bulb overcharged some households as well as blocking consumers from switching and having issues with the Priority Services Register for vulnerable customers.

Ofgem said Bulb has since made changes to improve its processes and has paid a £1.76 million package of redress, refunds and goodwill payments to affected customers.

The bulk of the payment is made up of compensation and refunds, as well as a £157,350 payment into the energy industry voluntary redress fund to support vulnerable customers.

Ofgem chief executive Jonathan Brearley said: "Bulb overcharged some customers and risked leaving vulnerable customers without access to essential network services, when it failed to comply with Ofgem's rules.

"Our rules are designed to protect consumers, and suppliers must make sure they have the processes in place to comply with them if they are going to give their customers good service.

"Bulb has since put things right with affected customers and put processes in place to make sure it can meet Ofgem's rules."

Ofgem found that around 3,800 consumers on Restricted Meter Infrastructure (RMI), where there is more than one meter at a property, were prevented from switching to Bulb as the firm failed to submit the correct numbers of meters to their existing suppliers.

It has since paid £155,500 to consumers affected by this.

Around 11,400 RMI customers were also overcharged by £699,000 after wrongly having to pay multiple standing charges.

They have since been refunded and received goodwill payments on top, totalling £675,000.

Ofgem said about 46,500 vulnerable customers were removed from their network operators' Priority Service Register between March 2019 and January 2020 due to a data error.

This meant some of these customers missed out on essential priority services, such as being given advance notice of a planned power outage.

Ofgem said Bulb self-reported this issue in February and has paid £70,000 to the 933 customers who were removed from the register and suffered a power outage.

Bulb was not immediately available for comment.

The group had around 1.6 million customers at the end of 2019 and last year began expanding into France, Spain and Texas.

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