MFI has relaunched as an online retailer, three years after its collapse into bankruptcy.

The new site went live yesterday with a 60% off promotional sale, and claims to offer ‘high quality, luxurious and affordable home furnishings with first class customer service’.

MFI used to be one of the UK’s biggest furniture retailers, operating more than 100 branches before its collapse in 2008.

More than 1,200 people lost their jobs as a result of the collapse, and 30,000 customers were left out of pocket. Private equity firm Walker Capital acquired the MFI brand for £250,000 in August 2009. 

In an interview with Insider Media, MFI commercial director Adrian Storr said despite its high-profile downfall, consumer feedback suggested that the brand would be welcomed back.

Storr said that by relaunching as an online only retailer the company avoided the cost of running shops, meaning MFI won’t have to sell at the same margins as its competitors.

The online only model has worked to revamp Woolworths and Zavvi, two other former high street retailers that collapsed during the credit crunch. Both brands were acquired by new owners and relaunched in 2009.

The MFI brand has been away for longer than Woolworths and Zavvi, but consumers will definitely still recognise it as a furniture retailer. That said, it has proved to be a difficult year for the homewares market, with Focus DIY, Habitat and HomeForm all falling into administration.

Though they were all primarily offline retailers, there are still some major players operating online, such as Homebase and Ikea, so competition is fierce.

We also reported last month on affiliate retailer’s new ecommerce site.

MFI appears to be promoting customer service as its key selling point, with a dedicated team on hand six days a week. This will be a key area for improvement, as MFI was synonymous with customer service issues up to its demise in 2008. 

Whether the brand can recover after leaving so many customers out of pocket three years ago remains to be seen.

David Moth

Published 1 December, 2011 by David Moth

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

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