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Last Updated: Friday, 3 December, 2004, 15:44 GMT
Furious shoppers keep Courts shut
Courts store (web grab)
Many customers lost money; others cannot collect purchases
Threats from customers of insolvent furniture chain Courts are preventing stores opening to let shoppers collect purchases, the administrators say.

Courts collapsed under the weight of its debts and went into administration earlier in the week.

Many customers have lost money because Court's financial problems mean that furniture makers will not now fulfil the chain's outstanding orders.

Meanwhile, KPMG has sold off Courts Contracts to its management team.

The non-core unit operates from eight warehouses and fits out show homes for residential building companies.

It was sold for an undisclosed sum as part of KPMG's efforts to find buyers for the troubled company.

"We are expecting to get offers in for significant parts of the business early to middle of next week," said KPMG's head of corporate recovery, Mick McLoughlin

'Aggressive minority'

Courts' administrators, KPMG, say they want to reopen the company stores, but have a duty to protect staff.

Staff will continue to be paid while the stores remain closed.

In one incident on Thursday, police were called out to the store in Port Talbot, Wales, after agitated customers started gathering outside the store.

Two officers went there to disperse them, but no arrests were made.

It's the very people who are causing trouble that are stopping their furniture being delivered
Mick McLoughlin, KPMG

"Unfortunately, because of disturbances and aggressive incidents that have taken place in the last couple of days, perpetrated by a small minority of customers, we cannot take the risk of reopening the stores," KPMG said in a statement.

"We've had a number of members of staff physically assaulted, security guards physically assaulted, people locked in a store," Mick McLoughlin told the BBC.

Deliverance

A full stock-check has identified more than 3,000 customers who would be able to pick up their furniture if the firm's 88 stores in England and Wales were reopened.

"The perverse thing is that we've got 3,000 pieces of furniture which we will quite happily deliver to people but because we can't guarantee the safety of Courts staff or our own staff we can't deliver that furniture," he said.

"It's the very people who are causing trouble that are stopping their furniture being delivered.

"We hoped to reopen the stores today, but we can't while people are being verbally and physically abusive to the staff."

Rejection

Courts was trying to restructure debts of 280m when its creditors rejected a proposed debt-for-equity swap, forcing the firm into administration on 30 November. Trading in its shares was suspended.

At that time, Courts said it "was not in a position to fulfil any outstanding orders" as the vast majority of goods ordered by customers had not been received from manufacturers.

It urged customers to contact their credit card providers to check if they were insured for the purchases.

Those who paid by cash or cheque were told they were now unsecured creditors in the administration and would not receive either goods or a refund.

The stock-check has since turned up 3,000 or so customers whose goods are in stock and fully paid for.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
How angry customers have vandalised stores




SEE ALSO:
Courts attracts buyer interest
01 Dec 04 |  Business
Courts to go into administration
29 Nov 04 |  Business
Courts announces a profit warning
15 Apr 04 |  Business


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