MFI relaunches as online retailer


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The Independent Online

Flatpack furniture brand MFI was back in business as an online retailer today - three years after its collapse left customers out of pocket.

The brand, which was established in 1963, was salvaged from administrators by Walker Capital, the private equity owners of online bathroom retailer Victoria Plumb, for £250,000 in August 2009.

It has now been relaunched as a website selling furniture, beds and bathroom suites, although it will not sell fully fitted kitchens or bedrooms, which were badly hit by the collapse of the housing market and contributed to the retailer's downfall.

Walker believes that by operating online MFI will be able to compete with retailers such as B&Q, IKEA and Homebase.

It hopes MFI's brand has not been tainted by its failure, which left 30,000 customers waiting for orders, with many believed to have been left out of pocket as a result.

The launch comes at a difficult time for the homewares market, which has seen Focus DIY, Habitat and HomeForm fall into administration this year.

MFI was one of the UK's best-known retail brands and established itself as a major player in home furnishing shortly after it was founded by Noel Lister and Donald Searle - who called it Mulland Furniture Industries, after Mr Searle's wife's maiden name.

It started out as a mail order business but three years later opened its first shop, in Balham, south London, and grew to become the biggest furniture retailer in the UK, with a value of £1 billion at one point.

But its position as market leader was hit by the growth of rival stores, the decline in the property market and the recession. It collapsed in November 2008.