Harveys is the UK's leading furniture retail specialist, offering a wide range of mid-priced items for the living room and dining room. The company has more than 150 stores nationally. It was founded in 1966 as a general home furnishings retailer in East London, and expanded gradually across the south of the country before being acquired in 2000 by Homestyle Group, an umbrella for a number of similar chains including Rosebys and Bensons For Beds. Partly as a result of its sister chains, Harveys withdrew from bedroom furniture and soft furnishings. The sector was hit by a dramatic slowdown in the mid-2000s causing the collapse of several competitors, including MFI, Courts and Furnitureland. Homestyle Group was rescued in 2005 by Steinhoff Group, an international holding company with extensive retail operations spread across Europe, Australasia and South Africa. Several of the UK businesses were later sold off or shuttered. However, Steinhoff still owns Harveys, Bensons For Beds and the Sleepmasters and Relyon mattress brands in the UK, as well as some 40 other chains in Europe and Africa, not least Conforama in multiple European markets, Kika/Leiner in Austria, Mattress Firm in the US, and also UK discount retailer Poundland. However, serious concerns were raised over Steinhoff's group finances at the end of 2017 after it disclosed accounting irregularities. Stuart Machin is CEO of Harveys & Bensons For Beds, reporting to Sean Summers, CEO, UK retail. Subscribers may access account assignments and contact information. The searchable account assignments database is available to full subscribers to Adbrands.net premium services. Click here to access Adbrands account assignments (subscribers only); or see here for information on how to subscribe.
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Capsule checked 19th January 2018
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Adbrands Weekly Update 21st Dec 2017: Life is already tough for traditional retailers. It could be about to get even more difficult for a collection of chains owned by Steinhoff International, the investment vehicle of South African billionaire Christo Wiese and his protege Markus Jooste. In recent years, that company has accumulated a string of retailers in Europe and the US including French furniture chain Conforama, UK discounter Poundland and bed stores Harvey's and Bensons For Beds as well as Mattress Firm of the US, all paid for primarily with borrowed money or stock. However, Steinhoff's shares have crashed by 90% in just three weeks following the discovery of what were said to be accounting irregularities associated with €6bn of assets in Europe and the resignation of CEO Jooste. A few days later, chairman Wiese also resigned from the firm. No details of the irregularities have been disclosed, and as yet there is no evidence of wrongdoing. However, several commentators have already started to draw parallels to telecoms group Worldcom or energy giant Enron, both of whom collapsed as a result of accounting frauds designed to hide mounting debts. An investigation is underway, and Steinhoff is in talks with its bankers to buy more time and avoid a panic break-up of the group. However the banks are collectively owed around €1.6bn in loans, and several have already withdrawn their support. Steinhoff must now seek buyers for its chains at one of the most challenging times of year for traditional retailers. There is even a risk that the contagion could spread. Wiese himself also controls or is a major shareholder in a string of other businesses including South African supermarket giant Shoprite and the investment vehicle behind UK fashion chain New Look and food retailer Iceland.
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