Death announced of one of Blackpool's best known shop owners
One of the most prominent figures in Blackpool's retail sector, Richard Lefton, has died aged 54.
Mr Lefton, whose family ran Lefton's Furniture Group in General Street for more than 70 years, died at Blackpool Victoria Hospital on Saturday after being admitted with sepsis.
Members of his family today said the suddenness of his death had come as a terrible shock and they were dealing with a torrent of emotions.
Mr Lefton's business was set up by his father Reuben and uncle Cyril, initially as a carpets business in 1946, before expanding rapidly and diversifying into furniture.
Richard Lefton was managing director of the company, having started working for his father as a teenager in the 1980s, and he helped steer the business successfully through many challenges including a fire at the Topping Street shop in 1988, the darkest days of the banking crisis recession from 2007 and floods at the General Street store in 2013.
His brothers Ivor and Stephen also work in the retail sector with their own companies.
He was an active member of the town's business community and a dedicated and outspoken advocate for improving its high streets and retail offer to visitors and residents alike.
The firm sourced quality furniture from independent manufacturers all over the world and its customers ranged from Edinburgh to London as well as extensively across the Fylde coast.
However, in early October last year, he decided it was time to call it a day and closed the business, another blow for the embattled retail sector facing competition from online retailers who do not have to pay business rates, out of town retail parks and the overheads of running a shop.
At the time he told customers: "After 75 years of trading in Blackpool,it is with great sadness that I announce, we are closing our doors indefinitely. Lefton’s would just like to extend our gratitude to all our loyal customers near and far. It has been a pleasure to serve you.”
Mr Lefton’s group supported local charities including the Refurb furnishings recycling group. In June 2018 Mr Lefton donated £300 to a Wyre mum whose home and furniture had been wrecked by a house fire.
Martin Long, chairman of the Blackpool Business Leadership Group, said: “We are very sorry to hear about Richard’s untimely death. He traded in Blackpool for many years and was a powerful voice in speaking up for the town centre and retail community.”