Furniture chain Walmsley in administration

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The Independent Online

Furniture chain Walmsley has become the latest casualty of the consumer spending downturn after collapsing into administration.







The business has more than 60 stores across the UK, although 25 have already been sold to a new owner by administrators from Leonard Curtis. Uncertainty surrounds the future of the remaining stores and staff.



The failure of Walmsley's, which specialises in sofas, beds and dining furniture, follows the recent demise of Floors-2-Go, Lombok and the UK arm of Habitat.







Furniture retailers have been particularly badly hit as cash-strapped consumers put off purchases of big ticket items.



The new owner of the 25 stores, reported to be a private equity firm, has also acquired all of Walmsley's stock.



The company was founded in 1933 and claimed to have more stores on the high street than any other furniture retailer.



In 2008, the company was accused of selling sofas that left people with rashes and burns.



Walmsley, along with Argos and Land of Leather, were alleged to have imported sofas from China containing a chemical fungicide called dimethyl fumarate.



More than 5,000 people joined a group litigation, making it the largest consumer injury class action in UK history.



The chemical was subsequently banned and around 1,650 people are understood to have received compensation worth £20 million.









Of the company's 63 stores, it is understood that 38 have been closed, mainly in the north of England and the Midlands.



In the North West eight stores shut, in Ashton, Blackburn, Burnley, Farnworth, Kirkby, Preston, Runcorn and Skelmersdale.



There have been nine closures in the Midlands and Wales: Bangor, Coventry, Derby, Dudley, Erdington, Hereford, Stafford, Walsall and Wrexham.



In the North East and Yorkshire there were 11 closures, in Castleford, Grimsby, Halifax, Hartlepool, Huddersfield, Hull, Middlesbrough, Rotherham, Scunthorpe, Sheffield and Worksop.



Five stores were closed in Scotland, in Airdrie, Dalkeith, Dundee, Irvine and Paisley.



A further five shut in the south at Basildon, Bedminster, Bracknell, Sittingbourne and Weston.



The other 25 Walmsley's stores were bought by private equity firm SKG, which also owns Suffolk-based Mark Elliot Handmade Furniture and Sofas, after it bought the firm out of administration a year ago.



Mark Elliot, which makes furniture to order in the UK, also has stores in locations including Monmouth, Cheltenham, Stamford, Norwich and Bury St Edmunds.

PA

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