Dekko to close two Northern Ireland stores
A Northern Ireland furniture retailer is closing its two stores with the loss of 42 jobs.
Dekko, which had been trading since 1998, said the property downturn was to blame for its difficulties rather than cheaper competitors.
The company had two stores on the Boucher Road in south Belfast and Junction One in Co Antrim.
Founder and managing director Michael Bambrick said the company was not in administration but had decided to close its stores and wind down its business in an orderly way.
Mr Bambrick said: "We have been battling in a very difficult sector since 2008 and we have done fairly well in weathering the storms."
But he said a fall in sales in February meant trading could not go on. "We didn't have the financial strength to go on.
"To close the stores is a voluntary action by the board, being mindful of their responsibility to everybody."
Mr Bambrick said discretionary purchases such as furniture were sensitive during a recession, with uncertainty over job and income prospects leading people to defer furniture purchases.
He said the decision to close was not prompted by the continued presence of cheaper competitors like Ikea, which opened a store in Holywood Exchange in December 2007.
"We would have been comfortable enough with the competitive environment if it wasn't for the housing crash.
"We have adapted quite well to all the competitors out there but I suppose there are a number of big multiples and they are all able to weather the climate here because they have other stores.
"We are in the midst of a very difficult market and that's the key factor here."
Mr Bambrick added: "I think the business had a lot of strengths and in a more normal environment, could have prospered."
He paid tribute to the firm's staff. "Dekko management and staff are of the highest calibre.
"They could not have done more, not only to achieve success for the company, but also to look after its customers."
The company thrived during the housing boom when eager homeowners flocked to the store to snap up its colourful and trendy offerings.
Dekko is now holding closing down sales at its two stores.
Other retail businesses which have depended on a healthy property market have struggled in the property downturn.
Northern Irish electrical store Laser went into administration in 2010.
The number of jobs that will be lost when the firm winds down