I’ve worked in the Home sector for over 15 years, so it was with a surprising sense of warmth that I looked at the MFI offering last week. I think that warm glow comes from 15years of having them as an adversary, firstly as I led the Magnet brand and more recently with the Moben and KitchensDirect brands – they are back to fight another day, albeit with completely different backers and an online only offering.

But their re-entry into the market did make we wonder about the sheer strength of their brand. As a sweeping generalisation consumer’s memories are shorter than mine, and perhaps what they will remember is the great value flat packed products that did a job as opposed to the appalling service history.

From all the research I’ve ever seen there’s certainly positive equity in the brand and even after they had gone into administration a remarkable amount of spontaneous awareness. On balance it seems to make commercial sense to leverage that equity and manage out the less reputable elements of the brand rather than build another home brand in an already crowded category.

But is there enough strength to persuade shoppers to purchase furniture without the touch, feel and sit test? Clearly there is a market for direct brands to operate in – Tesco, Sainsbury’s & Argos are all growing share – their trusted status must overcome shoppers desire to try. Maybe the MFI history as furniture specialists will overcome shopper’s desires to fall in love with the physical product.

All negativity aside I’m actually quite excited about the brand’s future – what will it stand for, who will it be? How will they engage with shoppers? One things for sure they’ve come out with a bang! Big offer sale to make the sheds shudder and beautiful looking products at slightly unbelievable prices. For me it’s just the story that’s missing and in this era of authenticity and storytelling will there be enough strength in the brand to reach out to new younger shoppers without it.

MFI is run by operators who know what they are doing so I expect there’s a plan!

Good luck guys