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Furniture chain Walmsley goes bust as punters put off buying big ticket items
By HARRY GLASS
Last updated at 3:16 PM on 1st September 2011
Furniture chain Walmsley has become the latest casualty of the consumer spending downturn after collapsing into administration.
The failure of Walmsley’s, which specialises in sofas, beds and dining furniture, follows the recent demise of Floors-2-Go, Lombok and the UK arm of Habitat. Furniture retailers have been particularly badly hit as cash-strapped consumers put off purchases of big ticket items.
The new owner of the 25 stores, reported to be a private equity firm, has also acquired all of Walmsley’s stock.
The company was founded in 1933 and claimed to have more stores on the High Street than any other furniture retailer.
Manufacture Technology failure
In 2008, the company was accused of selling sofas that left people with rashes and burns. Walmsley, along with Argos and Land of Leather, were alleged to have imported sofas from China containing a chemical fungicide called dimethyl fumarate DMF.
EU Consumer Affairs Commissioner Meglena Kuneva, said:
“There can be no compromise on safety. I am pleased to see that that the RAPEX system has been functioning well to ensure dangerous goods containing DMF are quickly removed from the market. But we need to go further with urgent EU action to tackle the problem at source. An EU wide ban on the use of DMF in all consumer goods is designed to eliminate the serious health risks and in particular the severe allergic reactions suffered by some consumers when they are exposed to this chemical simply by using everyday leather goods.”
The risk from DMF
Dimethylfumarate (DMF) is used by producers as a biocide to kill moulds that may cause furniture or shoe leather to deteriorate during storage and transportation in a humid climate. Placed in sachets, which are fixed inside the furniture or added to the footwear boxes, DMF evaporates and impregnates the leather, protecting it from moulds. However, it has been found to seriously affect consumers who were in contact with the products. DMF penetrated through the clothes onto the skin of many consumers, where it caused painful dermatitis. The fact that in serious cases it is particularly difficult to treat adds to the damage. The presence of DMF is thus a serious risk.
More than 5,000 people joined a group litigation, making it the largest consumer injury class action in UK history. The chemical was subsequently banned and around 1,650 people are understood to have received compensation worth £20million.