Furniture brand MFI says it will shake up the furniture retail market when it relaunches as an online-only retailer. It promises stylish and aspirational products for bedrooms, lounge, dining, bathrooms, as well as home offices and sofas, sold only online, through a transactional site expected to launch at the end of the month.
The brand, which failed in November 2008 and was subsequently bought by Walker Group for a reported £250,000 in August 2010, has recently been updating its presence on social media as well as its holding page, at www.mfi.co.uk. The Yorkshire-based Walker Group's other holdings include Victoria Plumb, which it bills as the "UK's leading mail order and online bathroom retailer."
A message on its holding page promises that the company will “change the way to shop for stylish, high quality furniture.” It adds: “We’re making it easy. We’re making it affordable, and we’re delivering it with first class customer service. See more here in the coming weeks.”
The brand is also signing up followers on Facebook, where it promises to offer “high quality stylish and aspirational products at value for money prices,” and Twitter, where its latest post reads: “Follow us to find out about our exciting news.” At the time of writing it had 41 Facebook ‘likes’ and 323 Twitter followers.
Matt Walton, retail analyst at Verdict Research, says the Walker Group will face challenges in making a success of the MFI relaunch.
He said: "Firstly, the furniture market is currently very difficult with a more constrained customer being far more cautious about making big ticket, discretionary purchases. When combined with a weak housing market, customers have little desire or ability to buy furniture at the moment. Selling furniture online has yet to take off as customers remain cautious about making such large purchases online and the lack of tangibility discourages shoppers, as many wanting to gauge its dimensions and feel before buying.
"Finally, with many customers losing large amounts of money following its initial exit in 2008, public perception of the MFI brand will be very poor. The Walker Group will have to work hard to re-establish its brand image. While the retailer is able to utilise the infrastructure it has with Victoria Plumb, making this new venture a success will be very tough."