Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Fultons Fine Furnishings faced with closure if buyer can't be found

Fultons on Boucher Road

One of the best-known luxury retail brands in Northern Ireland looks set to close early next year as administrators have so far failed to find a buyer for Fultons Fine Furnishings.

The 45 remaining jobs are at risk as the company — which has been a household name since it began in Lurgan half a century ago — prepares for closure.

The company is well-known for its 60,000 sq ft exclusive showroom on Belfast's Boucher Road.

The businesses in Belfast and the original Lurgan outlet had been hit by the downturn in consumer spending, competition from Holywood Exchange’s massive Ikea store, and the collapse of property prices, as it invested in the commercial and residential property sector.

Now the high-end business is being wound down and stock is being sold off at reduced prices.

Stephen Cave and Paul Rooney, from PricewaterhouseCooper’s business recovery services, were appointed as joint administrators back in July.

A PwC spokesman said it has had some “fairly serious approaches” but the amount of money needed to reimburse creditors has so far not been matched.

He said it was still possible that in the next couple of months the sort of offer they expect will be made, but the prudent decision has been taken to run down retail operations and give staff an indication of their future.

Mr Cave said Fultons cannot continue to trade indefinitely.

“With the continued support of employees, customers, the company's bank and suppliers, we have sought a buyer,” he said.

“However, while we have had a number of serious approaches we have not reached any agreement to sell the businesses or assets.”

Colin Mathewson, retail director at commercial property firm Osborne King, said finding a buyer is looking increasingly unlikely. “With a well-known offering like Fultons, you would have expected a trade purchase within the first four to six weeks following administration,” he said.

“Things are very tough in the furniture business and it seems to be the higher end of the market that is suffering the most. With stock being sold off and now this news that the company is to be wound down, things are not looking good.”

Quotes

“Things are very tough in the furniture business and it seems to be the higher end of the market that is suffering the most. With stock being sold off and now this news that the company is to be wound down, things are not looking good.”

- Colin Mathewson, retail director at commercial property firm Osborne King

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