Christmas Blues

12 December 2023

Christmas is often a time of families coming together, making special memories and giving thanks.

However, for many directors and owner-managed directors, it can be a time of feeling enormous pressure and stress.

If times are hard, most directors won’t want to “spoil” the holiday season by voicing their concerns around the finances, where the money or work is going to come from, how they’ll pay suppliers, staff and generally keep the lights on.

But, we know from historical insolvency stats that December can be the worst month for retailers and indeed, owner-managed businesses, especially those in the food and beverage sector. Last year saw 188 restaurant companies become insolvent by December 2022, a 71% increase on the same period in 2021. In fact, 2022 was the worst on record for restaurants.

Insolvencies in general have risen steeply this year with the Q3 insolvency stats showing the highest levels since the global financial crisis.

But, there is always light at the end of the tunnel if you look hard enough. The latest figures from Barclays show consumer spending has bounced back in November and according to TransUnion, consumers are also feeling finically optimistic going into the New Year. So, it’s not all doom and gloom.

In fact, you could conclude that what the numbers actually show is that the outlook is really just about perspective. When you feel isolated and alone, unable to see a way out of your situation, everything can look bleak, but when in a lighter more positive mental state there’s always an upside if you look hard enough. However, it is when in isolation that mental health issues can rear its ugly head. I’ve been in the profession for longer than I care to comment in this blog and in my years’ I’ve seen many suffer unnecessary consequences because of a state of mind rather than a state of finances.

When in an isolated place, it can seem easier to keep secrets from loved ones, especially during the festive season, putting off difficult conversations until the New Year or when things “quieten” down. But the truth is, if you need help and things are seemingly spiraling out of control or you feel you are out of options, it can help to speak. Keeping your feelings bottled up or restricting yourself from the very human need to vent or articulate your fears, can detrimentally sway your judgement. Whether speaking to a financial adviser, friend, spouse, colleague etc; taking the time to speak your concerns out loud can have very positive effects on your mental health.

It’s a cliché of course that someone in the corporate insolvency field wants you to speak to them. However, at FTS Recovery we take mental health and the damage it can cause to the individual seriously. Over my career several directors have been more honest with me than anyone in their personal lives, even their partners, because they have trusted me and the profession at large, to help them.

Indeed, if someone finds it hard to open up it doesn’t matter who it is they are speaking to. With finance it’s particularly tricky, because it can be a trigger to stressors and dark thoughts. However, in all honesty things are never as bad as they seem from a financial perspective and there are often a number of options when you know what to look for – particularly if you seek help early.

So, for this festive season maybe we should all be looking at the gift of lending an ear and looking out for people who may find it difficult to get started with speaking. It would be nice to ring in the New Year armed with the knowledge that help is at hand despite the impending doom or the financial optimism, depending on which way you look at it.


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Alan Coleman is a director at FTS Recovery.