A GROUP of family and friends from Hyndburn are distraught after a Christmas hamper firm went bust, swallowing up the £5,000 they had saved to buy presents.
The 11 shoppers had been saving with Farepak Food and Gifts since last December.
They were horrified when the firm announced last Friday that it had gone into administration, leaving them thousands of pounds out of pocket and their children without Christmas presents.
Zoe Ashby, 32, of Harlech Drive, Oswaldtwistle, lost £600 after saving up to buy Christmas vouchers for her family.
Among other things, she was hoping to buy toys for her two-year-old son Bradley.
She said: "A group of us have been saving all year and we have all got children. They know now that Father Christmas isn't coming.
"We have got to start all over again and it just makes me really angry that you can put money into something all year and have this happen."
Julie Haworth, of Aspen Lane, Oswaldtwistle, who was the agent responsible for sending the group's money to the firm, said: "How do you explain to children that Father Christmas isn't coming as kids will expect the presents they usually get.
"We have struggled enough to pay in all that money over the past few months and this will just make things even harder. How could they go on taking our money if they knew they were in trouble?"
As well as Julie and Zoe, others affected by the firm going bust include Zoe's cousin Gemma Slater, her aunt Susan Slater and her friend Lisa McShane.
The rest of the group comprises Julie's mother-in-law Joan Haworth, her sisters-in-law Karen Haworth, Emma Haworth and Kath Haworth and her work colleagues Ruth Henthorne and Lisa Hobday.
Hyndburn's MP Greg Pope urged customers who had been left out of pocket to register as a creditor with the administrators to stand a chance of getting their money back.
He added: "I feel very sorry for people who have paid their money into this company in good faith, expecting to have a good Christmas, only to be let down at the last minute. It is very poor the way they have treated people."
He added that he was holding a meeting with other MPs to see if any action could be taken to help those hit by the company's collapse.
A statement on the Swindon-based company's website reads: "We are unable to deliver any orders for vouchers or gifts.
"The joint administrators are working to realise the company's assets and will be writing to its agents as soon as possible.
"At the present time, we can advise customers that they may receive some money back, but not all, and this will not be for many months.
"The company is no longer accepting money from its customers.
"The company is insolvent and is unable to pay its suppliers for goods and as a result the goods cannot be supplied to agents or their customers."
The firm says it will update customers today on its website www.farepak.co.uk