Paul Briant, Steve Dowdall and Peter Ling want to open up to 10 World of Sofas stores by the end of August, and aim to have 60 across the UK in the next five years.
Speaking from a furniture fair in Singapore, Briant told Retail Week: “It’s very opportunistic. Business is bad for everybody at the minute but the positives outweigh the negatives. For example, shipping rates have never been lower.£300m has gone out of the market now MFI has gone. We’re going to run a very tight ship and watch our costs.”
KBC Peel Hunt analyst John Stevenson said: “It’s a very interesting time to be starting out. On paper it looks a bit premature. Although there’s lots of capacity out of the industry and fantastic rental deals to be had, the appetite for big-ticket items isn’t there and I don’t see it changing.”
Stevenson forecasts the furniture market will still be in decline at the end of this year and said: “There’s no sign of stability yet.”
Briant expects World of Sofas – aimed at the mid-market, “slightly above Land of Leather” – to turn over£40m in its first year.
He said the trio had invested a “substantial amount” of their own money in World of Sofas, which is backed by two private individuals who know the team. He also said Barclays Bank had described itself as being “open for business” when discussing the venture.
Briant said: “We’ve worked together for 30 years. We all know furniture and wanted to get back into the industry. With the demise of Land of Leather and MFI there are a lot of opportunities out there.”
World of Sofas will source its leather products from Asia using former Land of Leather suppliers, while purchasing fabric items from the UK, Eastern Europe and Asia.
The first stores will open in London, the Southeast and Scotland in May – all in former Land of Leather and MFI stores. The retailer plans to employ former Land of Leather store staff as well as Brian Neilly, previously a finance director at the chain.
Briant retired and stepped down as Land of Leather chief executive last year, before its collapse. He said the retailer’s administrator Deloitte had rejected his offer of “40p in the pound” to buy back the business after it hit the wall in January.