Suppliers of Comet are pursuing its administrators in a bid to recover unsold stock supplied to the fallen retailer.
Just nine months after it was taken over by "turnaround specialist" OpCapita, Comet fell into administration last Friday, casting a dark cloud over more than 6,500 UK jobs across its 236 stores.
Administrator Deloitte has reportedly already received approaches from competitors, including Maplin and Dixons Retail, although their interest is understood to extend only to specific stores.
OpCapita has been widely vilified for its failure to turn around one of the UK's longest-established names, particularly as some experts believe it could stand to profit from its doomed involvement with the firm. This is despite previous owners Darty paying OpCapita £50m to take Comet off its hands.
Some suppliers were left aggravated last week as the firm took steps to prevent them collecting unsold goods from their premises, even before it entered administration.
ChannelWeb understands that one distributor has £10m of stock tied up with the retailer, albeit on a consignment basis.
Mark Needham, chairman of consumer electronics distributor Widget, said his firm has slapped Deloitte with a retention of title (RoT) claim relating to a small amount of stock it supplied Comet in late September.
"It would have been very difficult to turn Comet around but nothing is impossible with good management and a bit of luck," Needham said.
"I believe [managing director] Bob Darke's team gave it their best but they were unlucky with the economic climate or their financial backers. Like many people, I worried what OpCapita would do when the £50m from Kesa ran out, and it seems we have the answer now."
Eddie Pacey, managing director at EP Credit Management & Consultancy (pictured), suspected some suppliers would struggle to recover stock, but expressed sympathy with those hit.
"Not surprisingly, suppliers are pretty miffed," he said. "They cannot enforce RoT, undoubtedly have no credit insurance cover and see investors coming out of this unscathed and perhaps with profit.
"Most canny suppliers will have RoT written into contracts correctly and will attempt to enforce recovery against unsold stock. My experience, however, tells me the wording of such clauses within terms and conditions of sale are often weak and even when strong, the harsh reality is that in cases of ‘administration', suppliers cannot legally enforce RoT so the effectiveness of this clause is limited to recovery before the appointment of administrators. RoT works better in cases of formal liquidation."
Paul Cubbage, managing director of distributor Target Components - which did not have a trading relationship with Comet - said: "The writing had been on the wall for a good period of time. If I had been in the shoes of a supplier, I would have pulled the plug, or at least limited the risk from it, some time ago."
Jon Atherton (pictured), vice president of distributor EntaTech - which also did not supply Comet - said: "It is sad to see so many people potentially lose their jobs. I do not think Comet implemented a viable e-commerce solution, which is key in today's retail and consumer space."
Another distributor, who recently slashed credit terms with Comet to seven days, said: "Everyone will be working hard to mitigate their losses."
Meanwhile, Dixons Retail, whose shares have soared to a 22-month high, is offering a lifeline to staff of its fallen rival.
The electricals retail goliath is looking to hire 3,000 temporary staff over the yuletide period and has delayed the recruitment process to give Comet staff a better chance of filling the vacancies. 2,000 of these will be in-store workers.
Mark Webb, head of media relations at Dixons Retail, said: "We're delighted with the response we've had from Comet staff. We've had more than 500 enquiries, including 300 walk-in enquiries at retail parks and 100 for head office roles.
"We've also had Comet staff in their uniforms walk into our stores asking about jobs. Most branches of Comet are on the same retail parks as our stores."