160 jobs at risk as Dudley furniture firm collapses
A furniture-making company has collapsed after losing a major contract – leaving more than 150 employees at serious risk of losing their jobs.
Ultra Furniture on the Pensnett Estate, Dudley, which has supplied upholstery retailers and high-street brands for 30 years, has gone into administration.
The news comes two weeks after it shut without notice 24 hours after Tesco revealed it was closing its Tesco Direct non-food website.
Around 70 per cent of Ultra's business came from the supermarket's general merchandise sideline, which shuts next month.
The news was broken to shocked workers by executive chairman Joel Rosenblatt in an end-of-shift meeting last month.
It is the second time in as many years that the firm has been plunged into difficulties after losing a big customer.
In March 2016, it was forced to downsize, making 84 workers redundant, following the loss of furniture giant DFS.
Ultra continued to struggle but was taken over in £100,000 pre-pack administration deal that saved the remaining 116 jobs.
Later that year the business was bought by Helium Miracle 124, which also owns Buoyant Upholstery, the UK's largest independent furniture manufacturer.
Employees are angry that bosses appear to have thrown in the towel so quickly.
Machinist James Street, 25, of Wordsley, said: "It's not the company's fault that Tesco Direct is closing but they've given up without a fight. They locked the doors straight after the meeting, even though Tesco will carry on until July.
"We've done work for Buoyant in the past and they've helped us out. But it seems the will just wasn't there to rescue the company. They've taken the easy route."
Ultra, whose customers also included Next and Marks & Spencer, was formed out of a number of companies in the furniture market in 1986.
Following Helium's takeover, the new owners began recruiting more staff, announcing it was targeting home shopping and online markets. In January last year it announced it had secured a new 10-year lease on the Third Avenue site.
Mr Street, who worked for the firm for more than five years, said staff were left reeling by the closure.
"It came out of the blue, no one was expecting it. A lot of people had worked there for well over 10 years or more. One man's wife is just about to give birth, it's going to mean hardship for a lot of people.
Paul Jenkins, 26, of Ashwood, who worked as a frame-blocker for more than seven years, said workers were worried about payment of wages. "We were told they would try and pay us but it didn't look too hopeful. Some of us had just worked seven days straight."
Bosses told the staff to that they would be sent letters in the post from the administrators. But Mr Street said that it left workers 'stuck in limbo' unable to claim benefit or get another job without official paperwork.
Duff & Phelps’ Steven Muncaster, who has been appointed administrator, said: "The directors of the business are clear that at this stage that the business as it currently stands cannot continue to trade following the loss of such a major customer.
"While we are continuing to market the business with the aim of finding a buyer, we have to stress that this is a hugely challenging market undergoing consolidation and cost pressures."