It has emerged that medical design specialist Pearson Matthews Group went into liquidation on ‘Meltdown Monday’, 29 September, after some 25 years in the business.
Director Mike Pearson confirms that about 15 people, including designers and prototypers, were made redundant by the Kingston-based consultancy, but adds that he personally covered salaries owed up to the closure. He maintains that most are already placed in other jobs or have a plan for their future.
Pearson attributes the decision to close partly to the reticence of clients to commit to projects given the economic downturn, but also to a desire to do things differently.
‘It’s been coming for some time,’ he says. ‘It is difficult to get from under the weight of a design offer to do things differently.’
Pearson sees product design as fulfilling a more strategic role going forward, rather than just creating products. To this end, the PMG name bears the descriptor ‘innovation consultants’.
He cites the role he has held as a consultant to the Department of Health as an example. ‘They hire a person, not a company,’ he says. He is also an advisor to the new course on design thinking set up by Pro Vice-chancellor (Arts) Penny Sparke at Kingston University.
Pearson was one of three directors at the time of the closure. His wife is company secretary, while Ken Sadler became a director two years ago, following the merger of his consultancy Sadler Associates and Pearson Matthews to form PMG.
Managing director Jim Dawton resigned a month ago ‘to explore other opportunities’ and was working his notice period when the decision was taken. He joined from Seymour Powell in 2004 with a remit to broaden the consultancy’s product design offer into consumer goods.
Dawton says that after ‘a phenomenal summer’ of new projects, the real crunch came over the past month. Bad debts, partly down to working in Russia, and a spate of clients pulling the plug on projects, meant the consultancy had to write £500 000 off its books.
Like Pearson, Dawton remains upbeat about the future, particularly for design taking a more strategic role. But he says of PMG’s situation, when the squeeze is on ‘you have to react quite quickly’.