NEWS that Wigan-based coach travel operator Shearings has gone into administration amid the coronavirus pandemic has been met with sadness and devastation.

About 2,500 jobs across the UK have been lost and 64,000 bookings cancelled after Specialist Leisure Group, owners of Shearings, collapsed.

The exact number of jobs affected locally is not clear at this stage.

Travel trade organisation Abta said the coronavirus pandemic is the main reason for its failure, as it struggled to issue thousands of refunds while new bookings ground to a halt.

The BBC reported one hotel owner predicted its demise would leave "a void in the market" and there are concerns about the long-term impact it will have on the the wider travel industry and coastal resorts once holidaying resumes.

Shearings Holidays, based in Wigan, was founded in 1919 but was an amalgamation of companies dating back as far as 1903.

Specialist Leisure Group is a British hotel and leisure travel company specialising in escorted tours, short breaks, events and river cruises throughout the UK, Europe and worldwide for the over 50s.

Headquartered in Wigan the group employs over 2,400 people across its 44 UK hotels and travel brands. These include Shearings Holidays, National Holidays (trading as Caledonian Travel), UK Breakaways, Coast & Country Hotels, Bay Hotels, Country Living Hotels, and Wallace Arnold Travel.

All have ceased trading with immediate effect, added the company's administrators, which said that Bay Hotels, Coast & Country Hotels and Country Living Hotels will not reopen.

On social media there was heartbreak at the news, as people lamented the loss of the firm's famous blue coaches.

One Shearings employee wrote on Twitter: "Gutted that from today Shearings is no more. 13 years of my life ended a little sooner than I'd like.

"I've met so many people, made so many memories, it'll take a while for this wound to heal.

"To my colleagues, good luck, stay safe, sat stronger & don't be a stranger."

An ex-Shearings worker wrote: "So sad to hear that Shearings holidays are in administration. I spent most of my working life there. It was owned by my aunt and uncle from 64 to 68."

Last night it was confirmed Sam Woodward and Colin Dempster of EY’s Restructuring team had been appointed joint administrators of the Specialist Leisure Group.

Mr Woodward, commented: “The group has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic as all tours, trips and events have been cancelled and the hotels closed to the public, leading to a significant cash shortfall.

“The directors of the group have been in discussions with a number of parties, seeking a going concern buyer for the business. Unfortunately, despite interest in the group as a whole and in parts, no viable transaction structure was able to be agreed and, as a result, the Group was placed into Administration.

"Regrettably, the jobs of 2,460 employees, 2,207 of which were furloughed at the time of appointment, will now have to be made redundant.

Leigh Journal:

Shearings was a much-loved brand

"Approximately 70 employees will initially be retained to assist the administrators in disposing of the assets and winding down the business.

 “Our immediate priority is to advise and support those employees and customers that have been impacted by the Group’s insolvency. 

"We are making every effort to contact all customers, who have had their bookings cancelled as a result of the Administrations or COVID-19, with information to assist them in making a claim.

"Customers should be assured that claims do not need to be submitted immediately and refunds will continue to be accepted for up to six months.

“We will also be seeking to realise the remaining assets of the Group’s business for the benefit of creditors and we are therefore seeking offers from interested parties.”

All tours, holidays and hotel breaks have been cancelled and will not be rescheduled.

In a statement EY’s Restructuring added: "The vast majority of customers are expected to have financial protection from one of the Confederation of Passenger Transport, Bonded Coach Holidays, ATOL or ABTA, or through their credit or debit card issuer.

"All customers are advised to visit the Specialist Leisure Group’s website at for further information, where they can also find relevant links and instructions on how to claim.

"The Administrators will also be making every effort to contact customers, whose travel plans have been cancelled as a result of the administrations or COVID-19, in writing with more information about making a claim."

In a statement obtained by Travel Weekly, SLG chief executive Richard Calvert said: "This is a terribly sad day for employees, customers and commercial partners of the Specialist Leisure Group and its subsidiaries which have entered into administration.

"The effects of COVID-19 on our 117-year-old company and the wider travel industry have been devastating.

"In the most trying of circumstances, over these past few months, we have fought tooth and nail to save the group and the jobs of our 2,400 loyal employees serving over 1.1 million customers annually.
"It is heart-breaking that the required funding or investment could not be secured to get us through this unprecedented crisis in order to save SLG and our amazing travel brands."

The vast majority of SLG's cancelled bookings were coach package holidays, which are financially protected under the Bonded Coach Holidays scheme.
Anyone with a package holiday including a flight can claim their money back through Atol, which is operated by the Civil Aviation Authority.

Customers with hotel-only bookings are advised to contact their credit or debit card provider in a bid to retrieve their money.

John de Vial, Abta's director of membership and financial services, said: "The Specialist Leisure Group included two of the UK's best known coach holiday brands, Shearings and National Holidays, two much-loved holiday companies who for many years have provided holidays both at home and overseas to a very loyal group of customers.

"Today is a very sad day for these customers and the thousands of staff who will have lost their jobs.

"The fact that two such well-known brands with a loyal customer base have had to call in administrators is a stark indication of the pressure that the holiday industry is under as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Abta has repeatedly highlighted to the Government the urgency of the situation and the need to set out a coordinated strategy with clearer communication if it wants to help avoid significant job losses and support companies to weather the storm."