Uk business insolvency trends

Trends in Business Insolvency and Their Impact on UK Markets

Is the UK’s economic recovery a facade masking deeper financial woes?

In the first quarter of 2023, the UK reported 5,747 company insolvencies. This is an 18% increase from the year before. With inflation dropping to 3.3%, there’s a bit of hope. Yet, the Spring Budget on 6th March adds new challenges for April 2024.

UK businesses face higher salary costs with the National Living Wage going up. Business rates are also expected to climb by 6.7%. These pressures and recent unemployment figures show the UK economy’s ongoing struggle.

Introduction to Business Insolvency in the UK

In the UK, there’s been a big increase in company failures. This shows why businesses fail and how people notice when a company is in trouble. From July to September 2023, there were 6,208 company failures in England and Wales. This change shows that businesses are struggling and it’s affecting the market.

Out of these, most cases were voluntary liquidations by the creditors (4,965). There were also 735 compulsory liquidations. There were 466 administrations and 41 voluntary arrangements, with just one case of receivership. It’s also noteworthy that there were fewer insolvencies in Q3 2023 compared to Q2. However, there was a 10% rise from the same time last year. These figures show the need for strong solutions in today’s economy.

From Q3 2022 to Q3 2023, company insolvencies went up by 10%. There were increases across the board: compulsory liquidations rose by 46%, voluntary liquidations by 3%, administrations by 58%, and voluntary arrangements by 41%. Notably, the rate of businesses going insolvent was one in every 191 companies. This rate was 52.4 per 10,000 companies. These facts stress the importance of knowing when a business is in financial trouble. This knowledge helps to reduce the overall impact on the economy.

Current Economic Conditions and Their Role in Insolvencies

The COVID-19 pandemic has deeply affected our economy, pushing up prices significantly. This situation worsened with supply chain disruptions, making finances even more complex. As a result, more businesses in the UK are going bankrupt than ever before.

In 2023, the number of companies going bust in the UK hit a new record of 26,595. This beat the old record set in 2009 by just a bit. It shows a 14% jump from 2022 and a huge 43% leap from 2019, before the pandemic began. It’s clear that financial challenges aren’t going away any time soon.

The construction industry was hit hardest, with 17% of all company failures in 2023. Hospitality followed at 15%, and retail was at 12%. Sadly, fewer businesses are being saved through Administration now compared to 2009. However, there’s been a rise in businesses choosing to close through Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidations (CVLs).

Looking ahead to 2024, things don’t seem to be getting any better. Atradius predicts insolvencies might even hit 28,000. It’s more important than ever for companies to find ways to survive these tough times.

COVID-19 Aftermath: Continuing Effects on Business Insolvency

The post-pandemic business landscape in the UK is still feeling the pandemic’s impact. The second quarter of 2022 saw a sharp rise in company insolvencies in England and Wales. This was the highest level since July to September 2009, mainly due to Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidations (CVLs). Also, over 10% of UK businesses faced a moderate-to-severe risk of insolvency in August 2022.

James Corfield from Griffin & King points out reasons for the high business insolvency rates. These include financial struggles from the pandemic, changes in what people buy, and more borrowing leading to higher interest rates. Particularly hard hit are businesses with fewer than 50 employees—about 15% of them reported serious insolvency worries from November 2020 to August 2022.

Over half of the insolvencies in the first half of 2022 were in industries like construction, manufacturing, and food services. Rising energy prices have been a huge problem. By late February 2022, 22% of businesses named it as their top concern. This number jumped to 30% for companies with 10 to 49 employees by autumn 2022.

Energy prices soared, with gas costs reaching 385 pence per therm in July 2022, up from 81 p/th the previous July. This sharp increase has made things tougher for many UK firms.

The effects of the pandemic on businesses are clearly far from over. COVID-related financial issues will keep affecting business insolvency in the UK for some time.

Analysis of Insolvency Rates Across Different Sectors

Insolvency rates differ greatly between sectors, hitting the UK retail industry hard. Market trends point to severe challenges in retail. This is shown by the bankruptcies of well-known companies like Wilko, The Body Shop, and Lloyds Pharmacy.

Insolvency rate variances

In 2023, England and Wales recorded 25,158 company insolvencies. The count included 20,577 creditors’ voluntary liquidations (CVLs). This was a 9% jump from 2022, setting a record. Also, there were 2,827 compulsory liquidations, 1,567 administrations, and 185 company voluntary arrangements (CVAs).

Last year, one in 186 companies went bankrupt. This equals a rate of 53.7 per 10,000 active companies, an increase from the year before. Retail suffered greatly from market instability and economic issues, leading to many insolvencies.

From October to December 2023, 6,788 companies went insolvent. CVLs made up 82% of these, showing their dominance. 11% were compulsory liquidations. Administrations and CVAs made up 6% and 1%, respectively. Insolvencies rose by 9% from the last quarter and 14% from Q4 2022. This was the highest quarterly figure since Q4 2008.

The current insolvency rate is still lower than the 2008-09 recession peak. This is because there are more companies now than before. However, insolvency rates are increasing, especially in retail. It’s vital to understand these trends. This can help us prevent more company failures in the future.

UK Business Insolvency Trends

Recent data shows a big increase in company liquidations between April 2022 and March 2023. Official figures from England and Wales reveal an 18% rise in company insolvencies in the first quarter. Northern Ireland and Scotland saw even bigger increases, indicating a significant change in the UK’s market behaviour.

From 26 April 2024, combining monthly and quarterly stats has given us richer data. This includes seasonally adjusted figures and insolvency rates per 10,000 companies or adults. Now, we have detailed data on both individual and company insolvencies, making it easier to predict insolvency trends and forecast economically.

The economic situation after COVID-19 has made insolvency trends more complex. Increases in business rates and changes in customer behaviour have led to a surge in insolvencies. This combined data now clearly shows these emerging patterns, comparing them to previous years.

Even though there are many insolvencies, the highest rates are still lower than during the 2008/09 recession. By merging monthly and quarterly figures, we get a clearer picture of market behaviour. This helps businesses and policymakers with better economic forecasting.

The Predominance of Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidations (CVLs)

Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidations (CVLs) are now the leading insolvency process in the UK. They show a key method for dealing with company insolvency. From the first quarter of 2021 to the second quarter of 2022, CVLs made up an overwhelming 89% of all company insolvencies in England and Wales. This large number shows a strong preference for using CVLs to address financial problems.

The COVID-19 pandemic first led to fewer insolvencies because of government help. But by the second quarter of 2022, company insolvencies rose to 5,629. That’s the highest since the third quarter of 2009. This increase highlights the ongoing financial issues companies are dealing with. In the first half of 2022, sectors like construction and manufacturing saw over half of all business insolvencies.

Additionally, there has been a rise in the number of administrator appointments, up by 20% from the first to the second quarter of 2023. This indicates that bigger companies might be looking at different insolvency strategies in the UK. These businesses face challenges from high energy costs too. These costs affect their financial health, pushing them towards more complex solutions for financial troubles.

Risk Assessment: Identifying Early Signs of Financial Distress

It’s vital for businesses to manage financial risk well. This way, they can keep running and avoid failing. Seeing the early warning signs can help a business stay afloat or fall into trouble.

Financial trouble can come suddenly, like when losing a major contract or having big legal issues. These situations need quick action. But, watching business health closely can give companies time to prevent failure.

Watching how stable your key suppliers are is crucial. Even with secure contracts, regular checks are needed. Spotting supplier issues early helps a company deal with problems better.

Keeping your finances healthy is important for smooth operations and to keep stakeholders confident. Governments and others rely on you. Financial issues come from many areas, like bad management or market problems.

Companies see internal warnings with dropping profits and less cash. This could lead to legal insolvency actions. Externally, issues show up as lost bank support, trust from trade, customers, and workers leaving.

Another warning is when business margins fall. This means costs are too high or prices too low. High debtor or creditor days signal money and supply chain issues too.

Big interest payments are a warning. They show lenders think your business is risky. This makes it more expensive to borrow. Not paying bills damages your image and shows you might have funding or debt issues.

A company struggling with money faces many operational issues. Ignoring cash flow problems can hurt the business further. When managers and owners are unhappy, they might cut costs or change strategies quickly. This can destabilize the business and affect worker morale.

Recognising these early signals is key to good financial risk management. It helps avoid failure and keeps a business strong for the long term. Being proactive and acting fast keeps a company’s finances healthy.

Impact of Rising Business Rates and Minimum Increased Wage on Insolvencies

Financial implications

For many UK businesses, the hike in business rates and the National Living Wage (NLW) hits hard. The NLW will jump by 9.7% to £10.42 on April 1, 2023. Consequently, jobs paying below the NLW are predicted to rise from 3.5 million to 5.1 million next year. This surge puts immense financial stress on companies, especially those in hospitality and retail.

These financial strains add to the already heavy load of UK business costs, leading to a higher chance of going bust. Recent figures show a peak in company insolvencies in England and Wales – 5,629 in the second quarter of 2022. This is the most since Q3 2009. Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidations (CVLs) made up 89% of all company insolvencies between Q1 2021 and Q2 2022. Over one in ten businesses faced a moderate-to-severe insolvency risk in August 2022, highlighting the need for urgent solutions.

The situation is particularly tough for smaller businesses. Companies with fewer than 50 employees are increasingly worried about going under. The main worry for these enterprises, from February to October 2022, was the soaring energy costs. Twenty-seven percent of firms with 10 to 49 workers felt this pinch. The most affected sectors, making up over half of total business insolvencies in early 2022, are construction, manufacturing, and the food and retail trades.

Rising costs force firms to rethink their business strategies and models. The hospitality sector faces a unique challenge, as its payroll expenses are nearly four times that of retail businesses. To manage the financial hit from the NLW increase, companies are evaluating loss-making sectors, updating business plans, and seeking efficiencies. These measures may result in job cuts or shortening work hours for many.

Role of Interest Rates and Inflation in Triggering Insolvencies

Market changes and inflation have hit UK businesses hard, leading to more insolvencies. By 2023, the amount of money borrowed by UK businesses is set to reach £513 billion. This is an 18% increase since 2018. The rise in debt means businesses struggle more to pay back what they owe, especially with interest rates going up significantly. Small and medium businesses saw their loan rates jump to 7.13% in June 2023, a big leap from 2.51% in December 2021.

Borrowing money has become more expensive, worsening debt repayment problems and adding to market instability. The Bank of England raised its base rate from 0.1% to 5% in the last 18 months. These increases made it even tougher for businesses to survive. The number of companies going insolvent rose by 40% up to May 2023 in England and Wales. This is the highest level seen since January 2019.

Big names like Thames Water are struggling under £14 billion of debt, which is 80% of its value. Such large debts, along with inflation, show how fragile businesses can be today. It’s clear that strong plans for managing debt are crucial for survival.

Businesses need to change their strategies to cope with these tough times. They might look at getting money through shares instead of borrowing. Being open about their finances can also help them get better loan terms. This could help them deal with the tough economic environment.

Effective Recovery Strategies for Distressed Businesses

When a business is in financial trouble, acting quickly is key. It’s important to look closely at money matters, including what the business owns and owes. Getting advice from insolvency experts early helps spot and tackle key financial issues.

A solid plan to recover is a must. It should detail steps to reorganise the business, manage money better, cut costs, and improve profits. It’s important to keep everyone affected, like creditors, staff, and customers, in the loop to gain their support. Making deals with creditors that work for both sides can also help a business recover while keeping trust.

Looking into funding options is crucial, including loans against assets, invoice finance, and getting investors. Government help might also be available during tough times.

Improving how a business operates is essential for doing things better and faster. This could mean automating tasks, hiring outside help, or using lean ways of working. Keeping an eye on the recovery plan’s progress helps make sure it’s working and allows for tweaks as needed.

To stay successful long-term, businesses need to manage money wisely and plan strategically. Being flexible and creative, especially in product or service development, helps keep a business competitive. The UK has laws to help struggling businesses get time to sort themselves out or find new money. Options like Company Voluntary Arrangements (CVAs) provide a way to deal with debt.

With the right insolvency strategy and continuous effort towards financial recovery, businesses can overcome difficult times. Expert advice on insolvency can be a big help. This way, businesses can become stronger, more resilient, and ready for future growth.

Future Outlook: Predictions for Business Insolvency in 2024 and Beyond

Entering 2024, businesses worldwide face tough times, with a 9% hike in insolvency trends seen. In the UK, things look even bleaker, with a 10% rise expected. About 31,000 businesses might fail, showing a 43% jump from before the pandemic.

In 2023, the UK already witnessed a 15% rise in business failures. This was the highest in 50 quarters, hitting sectors like hospitality hard. This jump is due to economic shift challenges and ongoing financial troubles.

As we start 2024, insolvency rates are topping pre-pandemic records. With the Bank of England hinting at a 4.5% policy rate, sectors like Construction and Real Estate are on edge. They form nearly 30% of the distressed businesses, highlighting the need for economic strategy shift.

By 2025, the UK might see a bit of relief with a 6% drop in insolvencies. The outlook suggests a slight GDP growth, offering a glimmer of hope. Yet, the global scene remains shaky, with geopolitical issues affecting much of the economy.

Companies must now prioritize risk management and adaptability. With a staggering 25.9% rise in distressed firms, over 47,000 businesses enter 2024 facing high risks. By focusing on solid financial forecasts and market trends, businesses can prepare better for the uncertainties ahead.


The study of UK insolvency trends shows a mix of challenges and chances for future plans. From January to March 2023, there were 5,747 company failures in England and Wales. Most of these, 82%, were creditors’ voluntary liquidations. Compulsory liquidations also jumped by 92% in the first quarter of 2023. These facts highlight how important it is to know the specific risks and the wider economic factors that lead to business collapses.

An 18% rise in insolvencies from the previous year shows the economic problem is serious, especially for the construction sector, which faced over 4,000 insolvencies in 2023. The situation is tougher for small and medium-sized companies. 15% of these are considered fragile. This situation shows a big need for smart market strategies and timely actions to help these businesses.

Looking ahead, the outlook on insolvency into 2024 is cautiously hopeful. But, a forecasted 9% increase in insolvencies means firms must plan carefully and act early to avoid failure. Learning from past trends can make the UK economy stronger and more ready for what’s ahead. By carefully assessing risks and being ready to adapt, companies can aim for steadiness in an unpredictable economic scene.

Written by
Scott Dylan
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Scott Dylan

Scott Dylan

Scott Dylan

Scott Dylan is the Co-founder of Inc & Co, a seasoned entrepreneur, investor, and business strategist renowned for his adeptness in turning around struggling companies and driving sustainable growth.

As the Co-Founder of Inc & Co, Scott has been instrumental in the acquisition and revitalization of various businesses across multiple industries, from digital marketing to logistics and retail. With a robust background that includes a mix of creative pursuits and legal studies, Scott brings a unique blend of creativity and strategic rigor to his ventures. Beyond his professional endeavors, he is deeply committed to philanthropy, with a special focus on mental health initiatives and community welfare.

Scott's insights and experiences inform his writings, which aim to inspire and guide other entrepreneurs and business leaders. His blog serves as a platform for sharing his expert strategies, lessons learned, and the latest trends affecting the business world.


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