Maples furniture empire collapses after 150-year history

Maples, the furniture retailer collapsed into receivership yesterday more than 150 years after the first store opened on London's Tottenham Court Road, writes Nigel Cope. Receivers Deloitte & Touche blamed high debts and poor trading for the collapse but said they hoped to sell the business promptly as a going concern. They said there were no immediate implications for the group's 340 staff. The business has been experiencing cash-flow problems but a poor August bank holiday was the final straw. Trading was well below targets in spite of a last-ditch promotional effort which included five-year interest-free credit deals with nothing to pay for the first year. Clive Vaughan of retail analyst Verdict Research said: "It is surprising because they should have been doing well at the moment. They have a strong brand with an upper mass market clientele. This has been exactly where the windfall money has been going."

Maples has 24 stores, including nine larger out-of-town outlets, specialising in high quality living room and dining room furniture. However, it has been a poor financial performer and the difficulties continued after a management buy-in from the Asda supermarket group in 1993. Maples owes pounds 8m to its main bankers, Bank of Scotland and CinVen, the venture capital group which backed the takeover. It had sales of around pounds 50m last year and is thought to have recorded a significant loss.

Photograph: Hulton Getty