MFI set to go into administration

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The Independent Online

Furniture chain MFI has filed a notice of intention to appoint administrators, its previous owner confirmed today.

The company's former owner Galiform said MFI filed the notice this morning and administrators could be appointed within days.

MFI, which has been hit by falling demand for "big ticket" goods in a slumping housing market, has more than 1,000 staff and runs more than 100 stores across the UK.

Since opening for business as a mail-order company almost half a century ago, MFI has revolutionised the home furnishing habits of a nation.

At the peak of its powers it was said that one in three Sunday lunches was cooked in an MFI kitchen and six in 10 children were conceived in an MFI bedroom.

The company enjoyed sustained success during the 1980s, when Margaret Thatcher sold off council houses to tenants and looked to MFI to help people spruce up their homes.

But after decades selling home assembly flat-pack furniture to increasingly aspirational homeowners, one of the UK's best-known retailers has seen its fortunes falter in recent years.

The current turmoil is a far cry from MFI's early days, when it established itself as a major player in home furnishing shortly after it was founded in 1964.

Set up by Noel Lister and Donald Searle, it was named Mulland Furniture Industries, after Searle's wife's maiden name.

The company started out as a mail order business but three years later opened its first shop in Balham, south London.

Over the next 30 years it became the biggest furniture retailer in the UK with a value of £1 billion.

The once mighty furniture retailer's position as market leader came under threat with the growth of rival stores such as Ikea, B&Q and Homebase, causing sales to fall from £854 million in 2003 to £742 million in 2005.

It also suffered from problems in its supply chain, with delays and errors to orders damaging confidence in the brand.

The firm was bought by Merchant Equity Partners (MEP) for £1 in 2006 but continued to suffer from falling demand for "big ticket" goods in a slumping housing market.

In September, a management buyout - in which over a third of its stores were closed - was hailed as securing the firm's future.

At the time chief executive Gary Favell said: "Fundamentally, it is business as usual for MFI, its employees and customers."