The parent company of Smallbone of Devizes, the British maker of high-end kitchens whose customers have included Dustin Hoffman, Liz Hurley and Oprah Winfrey, is on the brink of collapsing into administration.
Smallbone’s owner Canburg, a private company that also owns the Mark Wilkinson and Brookmans furniture brands, has filed a notice of intention to appoint the accountancy firm Grant Thornton as administrators.
Several hundred jobs are said to be at risk, Sky News reported. With consumer spending weak and the housing market in London and the south-east faltering in the run-up to Brexit, furniture and home improvement has been one of the hardest hit retail sectors.
In the past year the sofa maker Multiyork and the bed company Warren Evans have gone into administration, while home furnishings retailers including House of Fraser, Debenhams, Marks & Spencer, Carpetright and Homebase are closing stores and cutting jobs.
Canburg is based in Devizes in Wiltshire and employed 275 people in 2016, most of them craftspeople.
Smallbone has been making bespoke luxury kitchen furniture in its Wiltshire workshops since the 1970s, as well as cabinetry for the bedroom, dressing room, bathroom, library and wine room. It opened its first London showroom in 1981.
The business was founded by Charlie Smallbone and Graham Clark, who initially bought cheap antique furniture, renovated it and sold it on to London dealers.
They started building kitchen furniture to order after being given 100 kitchen dressers on credit in 1977 – an alternative to the fitted melamine kitchens that were on the market at the time.
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Canburg’s brand Mark Wilkinson also makes furniture for the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and study, while Brookmans specialises in minimalist kitchens and bathrooms.
The news is a blow to the £2.5bn Business Growth Fund, the vehicle set up by Britain’s biggest high street lenders in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. It invested £8m in Canburg in September 2014 in return for a 20% stake.
The last set of results filed to Companies House shows Canburg made a pretax profit of £1.88m in the year to 30 June 2016, up slightly from £1.8m the previous year. Turnover rose to £34.6m from £28.6m.