The owners of Eastenders cash & carry have been forced to sell off their flagship Barking depot after it was financially crippled by December's Customs raids.

Customs officers swooped on six Eastenders depots in co-ordinated dawn raids late last year, and appointed management receivers BDO to manage the businesses in their wake. BDO's appointment was overturned by a High Court judge in January but the £1.2m bill it ran up has so far been paid by Eastenders.

"Obviously what happened in December put the company into complete disarray," said a lawyer acting for Eastenders. "I think the receivership costs, which alone amount to £1.2m, have just crippled the business to the extent the bank loans got pulled. There were issues with Barking because it is a large warehouse and obviously if you haven't got cashflow you can't get stock."

The lease on Eastenders' Barking depot has been bought by Gardner-Shaw, an Essex-based BWS wholesaler, which is looking to expand into food products. The 40,000 sq ft depot is its second site, and MD Bernie Scotland said he was looking to treble the company's £7m-8m turnover in a year.

Scotland has changed the signs above the door, and said footfall had increased "virtually every day" since it moved in earlier this month.

"We don't want to have anything to do with the problems of the previous people, in any shape or form," he said. "We've been trading for nine years and we just want to look to increase what we do and take Gardner-Shaw to the next level. We're looking at having consistent stock levels and selling quality products at the right price."

Gardner-Shaw's sales are spread between the on and off-trades. "Coming into the size of the premises we've got now, we expect more to come from the cash & carry side," Scotland said. "Within this area there's a strong flow of prospective clients. That was part of the decision to come to Barking."

Scotland said he heard the lease was up for grabs on the "property grapevine" and moved on the opportunity after three prospective sites fell through.

Eastenders continues to trade from its remaining five cash & carries and has successfully challenged HMRC raids in a series of court cases. Last month a High Court judge ruled that the search warrants for the raids should not have been issued in the first place.

In February a court sitting at the Old Bailey dismissed fresh applications for restraint orders against director Alex Windsor and former director Kulwant Singh Hare, and awarded costs against the CPS in favour of Eastenders. Bail conditions placed on Windsor and Hare have also been lifted.

Read more
HMRC must return its Eastenders raid haul (18 April 2011)
Hare exits Eastenders companies (5 March 2011)