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'Sam's Yer Man' firm may have been sunk by employee fraud

By Sara Neill

Published 05/08/2015

Sam’s Yer Man founder Sam Duff and his son Sam junior (left) during better times
Sam’s Yer Man founder Sam Duff and his son Sam junior (left) during better times

One of Belfast’s best known independent retailers, S&R Electrics in east Belfast, may have been brought to its knees by an employee accused of fraud.

The store, best known for its ‘Sam’s Yer Man’ slogan, went into administration in April, 31 years after it was started up by Sam Duff.

All 20 staff at its stores in east Belfast’s Holywood Road and Newtownards lost their jobs.

Administrators BDO say it is now a “sad reality” that customers who are still out of pocket may never recover their debts.

The business experienced cash flow problems and increasing losses over recent years and posted a deficit of almost £500,000 in 2014.

The family-run company blamed the competition from online retailers, but BDO revealed potential fraud allegedly committed by a former member of staff may also have been to blame.

That cost S&R £257,000 and meant the company found it difficult to meet its working capital demands, leading to director Sam Duff jnr closing the business.

Legal action began before the administrators moved in.

Detective Sergeant Kenneth Leckey said: “Detectives from Belfast Reactive and Organised Crime are investigating allegations of fraud. The investigation is complex and ongoing and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

Sam’s Yer Man still has outstanding debts of more than £2.3m, with the biggest chunk — £820,000 — owed to Ulster Bank.

More than 60 customers are also named on the list of creditors.

When Sam’s Yer Man closed its doors, owner Mr Duff jnr said anyone with outstanding orders would get their goods, or their money back. His father said at the time he hoped the firm would reopen in the future.

But in the administrator’s statement, BDO said: “Given the high levels of debt due to the secured lender it is not expected that there will be any surplus funds upon realisation of the company’s assets to make a distribution to the company’s unsecured creditor.”

BDO has estimated once preferential creditors and the bank have taken their slice, less than £17,000 will be available to out-of-pocket customers and businesses, though that bill totals £1.3m.

Emily Lea bought an electric fire from S&R, but before it could be delivered, the store on the Holywood Road had shut.

“I had no contact from them when they closed the doors. I tried to ring and the phone was dead, and the Facebook page had been taken down,” she said.

“I even went to the shop but there was nobody around. A woman left a message on my phone. She said she was ringing on behalf of S&R and I would be getting a refund from them in May. The money never arrived in my account. It’s lost money to me. I don’t expect I will get my money back.”

Correction: S&R Electrics

This article originally stated, incorrectly, that Sam Duff Jnr, a director of S&R Electrics, was selling his Holywood home with an asking price of more than £1m (August 5). In fact, Mr Duff was renting the property, at Glen Road, and the house had been put up for sale by its owner, Andy Carroll. We apologise to Mr Carroll for the error. This correction has been re-published following a ruling by the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso)

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