The UK’s best-known kitchen retailer, MFI, has gone into administration.
MFI expanded in 1980’s housing boom
The company enjoyed sustained success during the 1980s, when Margaret Thatcher sold off council houses to tenants and looked to MFI to help people spruce up their homes.
But after decades selling home assembly flat pack furniture to increasingly aspirational homeowners, one of the UK’s best-known retailers has seen its fortunes falter in recent years.
The current turmoil is a far cry from MFI’s early days, when it established itself as a major player in home furnishing shortly after it was founded in 1964.
Set up by Noel Lister and Donald Searle, it was named Mulland Furniture Industries, after Searle’s wife’s maiden name.
The company started out as a mail order business but three years later opened its first shop in Balham, south London.
Over the next 30 years it became the biggest furniture retailer in the UK with a value of £1 billion.
Rival furniture stores and credit crunch spell the end
The once mighty furniture retailer’s position as market leader came under threat with the growth of rival stores such as Ikea, B&Q and Homebase, causing sales to fall from £854 million in 2003 to £742 million in 2005.
It also suffered from problems in its supply chain, with delays and errors to orders damaging confidence in the brand.
The firm was bought by Merchant Equity Partners (MEP) for £1 in 2006 but continued to suffer from falling demand for ‘big ticket’ goods in a slumping housing market.
In September, a management buyout – in which over a third of its stores were closed – was hailed as securing the firm’s future.
Which? Money editor Martyn Hocking said: ‘For MFI customers worried about any purchases they may have already made and are waiting on delivery it’s important to remember that MFI are still trading and will honour all purchases. And of course if you paid by credit card you’ll be covered by your provider.’
For more infomation take a look at the Which? guide to credit cards for details on your rights when paying by card.
Or read our guide on your rights when a company goes into administration.
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