Staff praised as troubled store reopens

ANXIOUS customers queued for more than an hour in Ipswich today to claim furniture from troubled chain Courts.More than 70 customers formed a 20metre queue outside the Ranelagh Road store in the hope of being allowed in to get the furniture they had paid for.

ANXIOUS customers queued for more than an hour in Ipswich today to claim furniture from troubled chain Courts.

More than 70 customers formed a 20metre queue outside the Ranelagh Road store in the hope of being allowed in to get the furniture they had paid for.

Some customers emerged happy and relieved after successfully claiming the furniture they had paid for in full, or paid deposits for.

Debbie Merrick, of Hengrave Close, Ipswich, was one of the first to be allowed into the store when it opened after 10am.

She emerged a short time later with a rug similar to one she had paid £160 for before the chain was placed into administration over debts totalling £280 million.

"I said I was happy to take a display one," she said, after leaving the store with the rug in her arms. "They were very helpful. I feel sorry for the staff to be honest."

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Customers were let in to the store in small groups after a large crowd of people gathered from about 9am.

Nicola Davis, of Somersham, queued in a bid to get a sideboard, which she had paid £300 for.

Shortly before having it loaded into her car she said: "I am happy.

"I'd had most of my furniture already bar this one thing. I've got the display model."

Customers who managed to get furniture from the troubled chain praised staff for their help.

"They were very helpful," Mrs Davis said.

"They said they have been promised the store won't shut down before Christmas but they've not got any guarantees after Christmas."

Courts' Ipswich store has been closed for more than a fortnight after the appointment of administrators were announced.

Today is the first day the store has been reopened to the public for a closing down sale.

The Ranelagh Road store is among more than 70 Courts stores which will be subject to a phased wind-down overseen by new owners SB Capital.

Only 14 stores will be kept open by the new owners.

In a notice to customers today, SB Capital said: "SB Capital wishes to minimise the disappointment and financial loss of any customers by dealing as much as possible with each individual customer's situation.

"If you have not been contacted, please either visit or telephone the Courts store where you made your purchase by December 22, 2004."

Customers who have paid for goods in full and where those goods are in the Courts store or warehouse should have their furniture delivered by Christmas.

Those whose furniture is not available for delivery are being told that efforts will be made to try to secure the goods from manufacturers but, if that is not possible, customers will be offered 10 per cent discounts on goods of a similar value.

Weblink: www.courts.co.uk

Are you a customer or a member of staff affected by the Courts closure? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

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