Trouble in store

CUSTOMERS today declared war on troubled furniture store Courts.All 88 stores have been closed, following threats against staff and property, and in Ipswich one man was arrested today for allegedly breaching the peace at the Ranelagh Road store.

CUSTOMERS today declared war on troubled furniture store Courts.

All 88 stores have been closed, following threats against staff and property, and in Ipswich one man was arrested today for allegedly breaching the peace at the Ranelagh Road store.

Police arrested the 41-year-old, from Balmoral Road, just after 8am.

Administrators KPMG have been appointed to Courts Plc and Courts (UK) Limited over debts amounting to £280million.

Mick McLoughlin, joint administrator and head of KPMG Corporate Recovery, said: "We appreciate customers' frustration and would like to be able to open the stores to facilitate the release of stock that has been allocated to customers where balances have been paid in full or can be paid.

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

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Today's arrest follows angry reactions from Courts' Ipswich customers who made payments and have not received their furniture.

One furious customer today spoke of his anger after he paid nearly £2,000 to crisis-hit furniture chain Courts just seconds before it announced its fall into administration.

After being told his furniture had arrived in stock, John Yarnton paid staff at the chain's Ranelagh Road store in Ipswich £1,900 on Monday afternoon - only to be almost immediately told over the store's tannoy system that it had halted trading.

The Blake Road father-of-four claims management at the store must have been aware they were in administration but still accepted his remaining payment for the Italian leather suite.

"I went on Monday at 5.15pm and paid the £1,900 balance, only to be told a minute later by the manager about the administration," the property adviser for Suffolk County Council said.

"Within a minute the manager said 'I'm sorry we've gone into administration'. I said I wanted the money put back on my card and he said he couldn't do that."

He added: "It's absolutely disgraceful."

Courts was placed under administration after banks, which are owed £280million by the company, withdrew their support.

Administrators KPMG have pledged that the 3,000 customers who have paid for the full balance for their Courts furniture and whose furniture is already in stock should receive their furniture but no guarantees have been offered.

For those whose furniture is not in stock they will not receive it because Courts has no money to pay suppliers.

Despite KPMG's indication they may receive their furniture, Mr Yarnton, 48, and his wife Janice, 44, will not rest easy until they have their new suite.

After carefully saving the £2,300 for the suite, they chose the sofas they wanted and began stripping the living areas in their home to redecorate and prepare for their new furniture.

They even threw out their old couch in preparation for the arrival for the new ones.

"We're just normal people. It took us 18 months to save that money," Mr Yarnton said.

"I can't afford another suite unless there is a miracle where I get my suite or my money back. I've got to go through Christmas on the floor.

Administrators are advising customers who paid for goods by credit card to contact their provider to seek a refund.

Customers who paid in cash or by cheque have been told that they are now unsecured creditors who will not receive goods or a refund as Courts is insolvent.

Administrators KPMG said their strategy was still to sell the business.

The Courts helpline is 0870 950 1333 and an information sheet can be found at www.courts.co.uk.

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