When part-time cleaner Jackie Alderson saw the household bills mounting up she decided to pawn some of her jewellery.
Among the valuable items that secured the loan with Albemarle and Bond was a locket, inside which were pictures of her late parents.
Now, having saved up the £1,000 needed to return the 10 rings and two necklaces, the 57-year-old is wondering how she will ever see her treasured belongings again.
The pawnbroker’s branch in Southend-on-Sea is one of more than 100 that have shut their doors owing to the company’s significant financial losses. Its latest set of accounts show that it lost £3.3m last year, and £1.6m the year before.
“It made me cry,” said Mrs Alderson, a mother-of-five and grandmother. “My parents have died and a couple of the items were from my mum, including the locket with my parents’ photos in. “You think they are secure and I’ve been saving up to get them out.”
Pawnbrokers allow customers to offer something valuable as security for a loan, or buy items such as jewellery and antiques. They lend money quickly, but usually at a worse rate than banks.
Speedloan Finance, the owner of Albemarle and Bond, has tried to reassure customers such as Mrs Alderson that her belongings are safe and held in a pawnbroking centre.
Many say that moving the pledges (the goods secured against the loan) to a central location is unfair, as most of their customers like to deal with things in their local branch.
One said that many of these clients don’t have easy access to standard forms of credit, explaining that one option offered by A&B, to pay their loan online using a debit card, was often not appropriate, although they can also use cash in a NatWest branch.
On Cowley Road in Oxford, irate customers of the stricken pawnbroker Albemarle & Bond are locked in a showdown with a private security guard who stands between them and their valuables.
“I’m willing to pay the money but they’ve run away with people’s goods,” said Brar Gill, who had taken the day off and come down from London to demand the return of possessions pawned for £200.
“You call them and nobody answers,” she said. “If I can’t get in touch with anyone, how can I pay? I can’t wait any more.”
Albemarle & Bond and its sister company Herbert Brown shocked customers when they suddenly closed all of their stores last Friday with no explanation.
But someone who works nearby, who asked not to be named, said the Oxford branch, which doubles as the company’s headquarters, appeared to have been preparing for this moment for some time.
He said an unusually high number of security vans had been arriving for several weeks, unloading goods into the shop’s storage area, which is guarded 24 hours a day.
The company promises [customers] will get them back but some are starting to doubt that.
Christine Smith from Liverpool said she wanted to pay to retrieve her items last week but found the shop was shut.
“They’ve got my grandmother’s cluster ring and a gold locket that my mother was wearing when she passed away, a gold watch that my mum bought me for my 30th birthday. They’ve got about £900 worth of items.
“I could send the £600 I’ve got and not receive my items. I’ve had to borrow money from my family. I’m just beside myself.”
At these times of uncertainty, it can be difficult to know who to trust, but City of Plymouth Credit Union’s desposits are protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, which guarantees member’s savings up to £85,000 in the event that the Credit Union were to close.
However, I’m sure we can all unite in hoping that the Albemarle and Bond customers will be able to recover their valuables.