Pumpkin Patch staff stressed, shocked and in disbelief as company liquidated

Pumpkin Patch worker Denise Henry never thought about leaving the company because she always hoped things would one day ...

Pumpkin Patch worker Denise Henry never thought about leaving the company because she always hoped things would one day look up. Twelve years on and she looks to lose her job with only holiday pay.

Pumpkin Patch worker Denise Henry faces a New Year without a job after the shock collapse of the childrenswear retailer.

The distribution centre worker is one of about 1300 staff across New Zealand and Australia who will lose their jobs as the children's clothing retailer is forced to close down.

Last week receiver KordaMentha announced it could not find a buyer for the chain.

The company was placed in receivership in October.

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Stock is being sold off and the liquidation process is expected to take until the end of February.

That was about the same time Henry, who has just gone on parental leave, was due to return to work, except now, she has no work to return to.

Pumpkin Patch listed on the NZX in 2004 and was founded in 1990.

Pumpkin Patch listed on the NZX in 2004 and was founded in 1990.

With one child already, a baby on the way and a large mortgage, the job loss would put more pressure on her partner, a sign-writer, to work extra hours.

"With Christmas around the corner, it's pretty stressful at the moment. My oldest girl is 12 years old, so already I've told her we have to watch our money," Henry said.

Despite knowing the company had been in trouble for a while, the receivership left Henry in shock because she and her colleagues heard of the news through the media.

"I think a lot of people were in denial that it was that bad. Some people just didn't want to believe we could possibly be losing our jobs," Henry said.

Fellow distribution centre worker and First Union delegate Rob Dempsey said the changes to the company over the years have been dramatic.

When he first started in 2000, things were so good at work he "bounced out of bed ... every morning". There was a strong family-focused culture and a lot of work was put into making quality childrenswear.

He said things started to change not long after the company went public in 2004 and excessive spending became commonplace.

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"When they started mentioning a global Pumpkin Patch, the cheque books came out left, right and centre."

After years of declining sales Pumpkin Patch's market value dwindled to just $10 million in 2016, from a valuation of $231m in 2013.

The company made a $15.5m loss for the year to July 31, 2016.

Both Henry and Dempsey said they only learned about the true nature of the company's structure when they found out they would not be receiving redundancy payouts.

Head office and distribution centre staff were employed under the parent company, Pumpkin Patch.

But it was a subsidiary company, Pumpkin Patch Originals, that owned the retail assets.

Because the assets were held in a different company to the parent company, there was little to pay out head office and distribution centre workers with.

However, retail staff would receive holiday pay, preferential and redundancy entitlements up to the statutory cap.

Dempsey said the union would do what it could to help affected staff find new jobs and a lot of companies had already contacted workers with offers.

"It's so sad to see. But you live and learn and you move on."

 - Stuff


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