Privately owned furniture group Multiyork has appointed former Argos multichannel chief Indira Thambiah as its new executive chairman.

Thambiah will replace Gordon Brown at the helm of the Norfolk-based business, after Brown decided to give up all his chairmanships - which included 99p Stores and the British Retail Consortium’s trading arm - due to ill health.

Multiyork, owned by the Wade Furniture Group, specialises in traditional custom-made furniture aimed at the upper end of the market, which it designs and makes itself. It trades from 61 stores across England and Wales.

Thambiah started in the role last Thursday, and chief executive Peter Mallinson will report into her.

Like many furniture retailers during the recession, Multiyork has experienced falling sales and mounting losses. In the year to September 2009 its sales fell 14% to £41.7m, and the company made a pre-tax loss of £972,000.

Thambiah spent six years at Home Retail Group, prior to which she was with Asda. Since leaving Home Retail in 2008 she has been a consultant working with clients including DSGi, where she was acting ecommerce director in 2009.

Most recently she has been fulfilling a similar role for Royal Bank of Scotland’s insurance business and she also sits on the board of fashion retailer Supergroup as a non-executive director.

The BRC and 99p Stores are looking for replacements for Brown. 99p Stores commercial director Hussein Lalani said Brown’s departure was a “great loss”. He added: “He really was an asset to the company.”

BRC director-general Stephen Robertson said that he would miss Brown’s “wise counsel”.