DFS is being left with a few empty seats of late, it would appear. 

Highly respected chairman Richard Baker is set to depart the FTSE350 furniture retailer this spring, while its largest shareholder last week cashed out of the business.

US private-equity group Advent International, which acquired DFS for a reported £500m in 2010, sold its remaining stake in the retailer for £58.5m.

So where does this leave the 47-year-old business?

Since Advent refloated DFS in March 2015, the retailer has enjoyed a relatively steady ride on the stock market.

However, Advent’s initial move to halve its stake in DFS in November dented shares, which led to it dropping out of the FTSE250. And there has been little recovery since then.

Investors, then, will be watching carefully for signs of how trading will play out for DFS this year.

In a half-year update last week, the Doncaster-based retailer revealed sales rose 7% in the 26 weeks to January 28, helped by the performance of its Dwell and Sofa Workshop businesses.

However, it did not give a like-for-like sales figure.

It also admitted the weak pound had hurt its margins in the six months.

“DFS will be basking in the fact that it began cutting production in Asia three years ago as its shifted production to its Derbyshire facilities”

But like all retailers grappling with the state of sterling, DFS has a number of strategies to deal with it. 

In its statement, it said it is continuing to work to “actively offset” the impact of currency movements by managing its range and “supplier negotiations”.

DFS will be basking in the fact that it began cutting production in Asia three years ago as its shifted production to its Derbyshire facilities.

The retailer said part of its strategy remains developing its “omnichannel proposition” and “enhancing” its product range.

Facing the challenges

But like many retailers, DFS appears to be facing an uphill battle this year – partly due to Brexit uncertainty. 

Consumer confidence in particular is looking shaky, with the threat of inflation and wage stagnation. And for furniture retailers who deal in the big-ticket space, this is especially a problem.

As DFS said: “We recognise that in 2017 the retailing of furniture in the UK faces an increased risk of a market slowdown given the uncertain outlook for consumer confidence.”

“DFS will also be hoping it can play on its strong brand recognition, boosted by its sponsorship of Great Britain’s Olympics team in Rio last summer”

However, as DFS boss Ian Filby told Retail Week last month, the sofa market has “proven to be relatively resilient”. It has also said full-year profit expectations remain on track.

DFS will also be hoping it can play on its strong brand recognition, boosted by its sponsorship of Great Britain’s Olympics team in Rio last summer.

Meanwhile, analysts at Stifel remain convinced DFS is a good bet. “The DFS investment case remains attractive, in our view, albeit with a bit of UK consumer macro risk that the company is working hard to mitigate,” it said in a note.

But like many retailers it appears DFS might have to work extra hard this year just to stand still.