“We wanted to build a £100m national business,” says the owner of The Furniture Barn, the eight-store retailer placed into administration in December.

Furniture Barn had traded from Market Harborough for over 50 years before — in 2012 — Richard Kimbell formulated a plan to expand the business in co-operation with major cabinet furniture supplier Global Home.

The backdrop at the time was a cabinet furniture market coming to terms with an emerging category killer threat in the shape of Oak Furniture Land, which has since gone on to build a 60-plus store chain with revenues over £200m.

Mr Kimbell had — back then — a close relationship with Global Home, a large design, manufacturing and supply business with operations in Vietnam and customers worldwide.

Richard Kimbell’s Furniture Barn store had been among the first to back the Global Home business with firm container orders.

“We came up with idea of building a national business,” says Richard Kimbell, who ran his single-store cabinet furniture retail business in Market Harborough through The Furniture Barn Ltd.

To do so, a second company, called Furniture Barn of Market Harborough Ltd was incorporated in October 2012. It is the corporate envelope for a number of additional Furniture Barn stores to have subsequently opened since 2013.

On incorporation, all the shares were held by Mr Kimbell. Now, he owns half of Furniture Barn of Market Harborough Ltd, with the remaining 50 per cent shareholding held by Northolme Investments Ltd. Hendrikus Nijhuis is the sole director of Northolme Investments Ltd.

“I’ve never met him and he has never been to a board meeting,” claims Mr Kimbell.

“I loaned the company [Furniture Barn of Market Harborough Ltd] £770,000 and Global Home agreed a matching loan of the same amount.” This is thought to have happened during the 2014 financial year.

At that point, expansion was underway, with six new stores opening between July 2013 and December 2014, when it launch at the former Miller Bros electricals store at Shaw Lane in Doncaster.

That amounted to around 90,000sqft of additional space, and brought the total number of shops to eight. Including Doncaster, it traded from Sheffield, Grantham, Lakeside, Kidderminster, Sutton Coldfield, plus its two units in Market Harborough, both of which are owned by Richard Kimbell.

By the start of 2015, problems had already surfaced, with the combined 2014–15 revenues of around £13m not enough to sustain the high rent levels at the newest stores, which had cost more than £3m combined to open.

Global Home commissioned a report by consultancy BDO — seen by The Furnishing Report — which evaluated the retailer’s performance, and outlined a series of recommendations.

Including the loan, Global Home — which supplied around 70 per cent of The Furniture Barn of Market Harborough’s stock — is owed just under £4.7m, with the next largest furniture trade creditor being Lincolnshire supplier Classic Furniture, which according to statutory filings, was owed £167,115 by Furniture Barn Ltd and £119,393 by Furniture Barn of Market Harborough Ltd.

Neither Global Home nor Richard Kimbell has any fixed or floating charges over either company’s assets, meaning neither party is protected now the business has been placed into the hands of administrators.

Global Home is a major worldwide cabinet source, but being owed over £4m was certainly “enough to spoil Christmas,” a source close to the supplier told The Furnishing Report.

The company stopped supplying furniture to Furniture Barn, and issued a repayment demand for its loan on 30th November, according to administrator FRP's statement of proposals.

The Furniture Barn Ltd and The Furniture Barn of Market Harborough Ltd were placed into administration through Geoff Rowley and Nigel Hamilton-Smith of FRP Advisory on 5th December 2015.

Mr Rowley was also appointed administrator when Corndell entered administration in the summer of 2014, with FRP Advisory subsequently selling Corndell assets to Corndell Quality Furniture Ltd, whose largest shareholder is Nivovia, the Czech joint stock company that owns Global Home.

FRP Advisory ran all eight Furniture Barns stores on appointment and through Christmas. Global Home is understood to have released stock to the administrator to fulfil around 3,500 of outstanding customer orders.

“That’s one major reason there haven’t been hundreds of news articles about consumers having lost their deposits. That’s positive for the furniture industry,” The Furnishing Report was told.

Furniture Barn’s Accessories store on Rockingham Road was subsequently closed and then towards the end of January, FRP granted a six-month licence to another newco, called Furniture Barn 2016 Ltd, and announced the planned closure of stores at Thurrock and Sutton Coldfield and warehouses at West Bromwich, Doncaster and Thurrock.

Furniture Barn 2016 Ltd’s two directors are Nigel Hickman, a former Furniture Barn of Market Harborough Ltd director with a background in IT and Terry Maywood, who was working with The Furniture Barn as a retail operational consultant. He had been hired on Global Home’s recommendation with costs paid by the supplier, according to emails and documents seen by The Furnishing Report.

In return for the six-month licence, Furniture Barn 2016 Ltd is scheduled to pay £280,000 to cover FRP's fees, plus a further sum of up to £500,000 to cover any trading loss for the administrator’s period of trading. Creditors are not expected to receive a return.

According to Excel files and emails sent to The Furnishing Report, Global Home shipped 42 containers of furniture from Vietnam late November, and these have arrived at Furniture Barn’s warehouse in Corby, with the products being sold on a consignment basis by Furniture Barn 2016 Ltd.

Richard Kimbell has since been returned the keys to his 10,000sqft Rockingham Road store in Market Harborough, and plans to reopen it as a furniture shop. He remains landlord of the Furniture Barn store at Riverside, Market Harborough, which continues to be run by Furniture Barn 2016 Ltd.

Mr Kimbell said: “Suppliers at the January Furniture Show were very supportive and understanding.”

The Furnishing Report tried to reach both Mr Hickman and Mr Maywood though neither returned calls or emails. Global Home chairman Otto De Jager, and FRP Advisory declined to comment. We were unable to reach Northolme Investment's sole director Hendrikus Nijhuis to offer him the opportunity to comment.

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