Harborough council leader calls for official investigation into controversial closure of furniture store

He has spoken out as up to 400 outraged customers have been caught up in the collapse of the Furniture Loft

By Red Williams
Friday, 24th June 2022, 4:53 pm
Cllr King wants the Insolvency Service, an executive Government agency, to launch an urgent inquiry into the dramatic collapse of the Furniture Loft.
Cllr King wants the Insolvency Service, an executive Government agency, to launch an urgent inquiry into the dramatic collapse of the Furniture Loft.

Harborough council chief Phil King is calling for an official investigation into a Market Harborough furniture store set to shut down.

Cllr King wants the Insolvency Service, an executive Government agency, to launch an urgent inquiry into the dramatic collapse of the Furniture Loft.

He has spoken out as up to 400 outraged customers have been caught up in the maelstrom involving the major store on the town’s Riverside industrial estate.

And it’s believed that up to two dozen local people have already filed complaints about the Furniture Loft’s sudden demise to Trading Standards officers.

Today Cllr King, who leads Harborough District Council, told the Harborough Mail: “These reports (about the store) are deeply concerning.

“I have written to our MP Neil O’Brien urging him to request an investigation by the Insolvency Service into the alleged actions and behaviours of the company directors,” said Cllr King.

“I would urge anyone who has not had goods delivered in full or been fully refunded to contact Consumer Advice Service on freephone 0808 223 1133 or visit the county council website and report their situation.”

Mr O’Brien, Harborough’s MP, told us that the enormous blow to hundreds of Furniture Store customers left high and dry was “completely unacceptable”.

“It’s obviously completely unacceptable that people have paid for things and then have not received them.

“I am looking more generally into the issues that might be raised by the failure of this business and whether there are some wider questions that we need to be digging into,” said Mr O’Brien.

“I am in touch with Government departments and local Trading Standards officers on that point.

“I really feel for the people who have lost out and I am trying to make sure this is put right.”

Asked for their response to a massive issue sparking fury across Harborough, the county council’s Trading Standards unit would only say: “It is the policy of Leicestershire Trading Standards not to comment or confirm whether they are investigating a company or individual, or if any action is being taken against them.

“They will comment if a company or individual is prosecuted as that information is then in the public domain.”

The Furniture Loft emailed clients last Friday (June 17) to announce they are ceasing to trade and couldn’t fulfil their orders.

The business, which opened six years ago, told shoppers to claim back any money they’d already handed over from their card provider because they haven’t got the money to refund them.

Richard Kimbell, 75, the owner of the Furniture Store, spelled out why the business has suddenly folded in an exclusive interview with the Mail on Wednesday.

Talking to us for almost two hours in his office, embattled Mr Kimbell told us: “This situation has developed very quickly over the last three months.

“We are a victim of circumstance and events beyond our control as much as anything.

“Our building here is 55,000 sq ft – that’s as big as 49 houses.

“Our heating bill alone was going to hit £50,000-a-year.

“So we decided to stage a massive sale in March and move to selling purely online,” insisted Mr Kimbell, who was also a director of the Furniture Loft’s predecessor the Furniture Barn, which collapsed in December 2015.

“But the sale only made £348,740, it was very disappointing.

“That’s £611,000 less than the highest projected figure we were given by the promoters.

“That was a huge kick in the teeth,” said the veteran entrepreneur, who lives near Market Harborough.

“Our sales dropped after that as well and the market went dead as the cost of living started to soar.

“We had serious problems with the supply chain too.

“The entire furniture industry right across the board is in big trouble in this country.

“We’ve been hit by a perfect storm – and it’s a complete nightmare,” said Mr Kimbell.

Asked what he had to say to up to 400 stunned customers hit by the firestorm, he replied: “I totally understand their anger, upset and frustration, of course I do.

“I’d feel exactly the same.

“I will lose £2 million myself and I could even lose my home as well.

“None of us wanted this.

“We are advising our customers to claim money back from their credit card companies or banks and ask for a chargeback.

“I’m confident that 99 per cent of shoppers will get their money back,” said Mr Kimbell.