One of Blackpool’s best known family retail businesses has closed, dealing another major blow to the town’s high streets.
Lefton’s Furniture Warehouse on General Street has stopped trading after more than 70 years in business.
Owner Richard Lefton said in a brief message posted on the company’s Facebook site: “After 75 years of trading in Blackpool, it is with great sadness that I announce, we are closing are 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.”
The Gazette contacted Mr Lefton, who has been a high profile and outspoken commentator about business and shopping in Blackpool, but he declined to comment about the reasons for the closure.
The firm was founded in 1946 when brothers Reuben and Cyril Lefton set up their own business as a carpet retailer in Central Drive.
The business grew and they branched out into home furnishings.
The brothers then bought a property on Church Street which they later expanded to create a furniture showroom, before branching out into The Square in St Annes.
In 1964, another shop was acquired, this time at Topping Street to display exclusive furniture from countries all over the world – including Sweden, Canada, Denmark and France.
The group’s Topping Street store was extensively damaged in 1988 when fire broke out on the bottom floor.
The upstairs departments suffered smoke damage and everything on the lower floor was destroyed.
Then three years later the company’s store in General Street in the town centre was damaged by an incendiary bomb planted by the IRA which had left several devices in the town.
But the shop re-opened three weeks later for the January sales and was later completely refurbished to become a bigger superstore with an undercover car park and lifts.
Mr Lefton joined the family firm in the early 1980s and was proud to be an independent business.
The firm, sourced its furniture from independent manufacturers all over the world and its customers ranged from Edinburgh to London.
But Mr Lefton felt that not enough was being done to support local retailers as the economy crashed following the global bank collapses in 2007.
As competition from the internet and out of town retail centres grew he felt high streets should have had more investment from local authorities and rates should have been cut.
In December 2017 he was critical of Blackpool Council over the slew of roadworks that had hit many town centre businesses’ trade in the crucial month of the year.
He said: “They always talk about getting things done before Easter for the tourist season, but they forget about the people who actually live here and work here all year round.
“Once a local person goes elsewhere to do their special shopping,to Lancaster, Preston or Manchester, and they like the offer there,then they will never come back here.
“Our takings are massively down. For example, on Black Friday, even though we are not an online business, I would say they were 75 per cent down on the previous two years.
“Given the problems the economy is having now,why make things impossible? We have so many empty shops on our streets,do the council want us all to out of business?”
In July 2018, when the group employed around 15 people, in an article about council plans to limit out of town developments to help the high streets in town, Mr Lefton was critical of the run-down state of the retail areas.
He said: “There is too much emphasis on tourism to the detriment of retail in Blackpool. If only the council could put as much effort in to support the 12 months of the year retail sector.
“We need to do more to entice people in and to get the national stores to come,if that means discounts on council tax or rates then so be it .
“I have worked in the town centre for 30 years and I can tell you that now there is not one single street that looks nice to walk down. Some are intimidating – you feel you might get mugged.”
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.