The owner of a major furniture store in Market Harborough is urging angry customers not to threaten him, his family and staff after a “frightening” showdown.
Richard Kimbell, 75, is issuing his plea after he had to call police when he was physically confronted by a furious couple at the Furniture Loft on the Riverside industrial estate this morning (Wednesday).
Mr Kimbell told the Harborough Mail this evening: “It was very frightening.
“A man and a woman came in here this morning shouting the odds and demanding their money back.
“I tried to explain to them that we are doing all we legally can for our customers.
“But the man was effing and blinding, calling me all sorts of names,” said Mr Kimbell, who says he is losing £2 million himself.
“He got right into my face and he kept asking me outside to sort it out.
“He also warned me that he knows where I live.
“I really thought he was going to hit me and my staff were scared as well.
“So I called the police.
“But they got here well after he’d left.
“I know that customers are angry, I understand that.
“But there is no place for violence.
“Me and my staff have been getting horrific verbal abuse as well as social media abuse since we said we were closing down,” said Mr Kimbell, originally from Sibbertoft, near Market Harborough.
“People have even called my wife to have a go and put my home address on the internet.
“No matter what’s happened here it’s not acceptable to shout abuse at me, my family and my staff.
“It’s stressful enough for all of us right now without being threatened as well.”
In a wide-ranging two-hour interview in his office this afternoon, the lifelong businessman spelled out why the Furniture Loft has so dramatically collapsed.
“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,” insisted Mr Kimbell, who’s been in business for 58 years.
“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.
“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.
“It’s very sad but we simply cannot afford to continue operating like this.
“We’ve called in a specialist company to advise us and to ensure we comply with the law.
“They are selling off the furniture we’ve still got on the floor here to raise money to pay off our creditors – principally the taxman.
“But I must stress that at the moment we are not in either administration or liquidation.”
Asked what he had to say to up to 400 stunned customers believed to be caught up in the firestorm, Mr Kimbell 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,” he declared.
As we spoke a fuming dad suddenly marched upstairs into Mr Kimbell’s office demanding his money back.
“You have £2,550 of my money.
“I would like it back.
“You’ve had your 14 days to sort this out and I want my cash now,” insisted the man from Great Oakley, Corby.
“I’ve just got back from holiday up north at midday today and I’ve come here to see you because your store is still open.”
Richard Kimbell advised the fed-up shopper, who asked not to be named, to claim the sum back on his credit card.
“Yes but it can take months to get my money back.
“£2,550 is a lot of money and I’m not at all happy about this.
“I’m angry that the store is still open and I’ve got friends who’ve actually handed over cash for their order,” he said as he left.
“You can imagine how bad they feel.”
But Mr Kimbell retorted: “We’ve taken £9,000 on Monday and Tuesday alone this week – and we banked more last weekend.
“That cash is helping to pay off creditors and the 14 staff or so still working here.
“I’m working 75 hours a week at the age of almost 76 to do the best we can here.
“I’ve also had terrible abuse for opening a new company near here just last week.
“But I’m doing that to try to give jobs to four guys who work here,” said Mr Kimbell.
“I’ll be supplying tables to the trade – but I don’t even know if it will get off the ground.
“I could have done everything better here with hindsight.
“But I can also look myself in the mirror on a night and know that I’ve done the best that I can.”
Harborough MP Neil O’Brien told us tonight that the massive blow to hundreds of shattered customers 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.”