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Cuckfield Modelzone founder could buy back stores following administration
The founder of a once-thriving hobby retailer has blamed venture capitalists for running his company into the ground.
David Mordecai launched Modelzone in 1988 in Brighton and during 25 years built it into a 46-store national chain.
But just a year after leaving the company it slumped into administration.
Mr Mordecai, pictured, now chief executive of Hawkins Bazaar owner Tobar, is considering buying back the troubled retailer – but fears that trust in the brand has been frittered away.
He said: “It’s an indictment of the venture capitalists that have come in without any understanding of the concept and run the company into the ground.
“Modelzone was set up fundamentally for enthusiasts, but the management changed all that.
“They wanted to dumb it down and become an up-market toyshop.
They failed to understand who the consumer was.”
Planes, railways and cars
The entrepreneur, of Cuckfield, took over 1930s Brighton store Model Aircraft and rebranded it Model Aerodrome before expanding into Crawley, Eastbourne, Guildford and Maidstone.
The concept was to bring hobbycraft models of planes, railways and cars to the high street.
It was renamed Modelzone in 1999 when it opened in Bluewater, Kent, and by 2012 had expanded to 47 stores.
But in recent years expensive store leases and online competition became “unsustainable” and the board of directors called in the administrators.
Deloitte has already announced 20 jobs cuts with 400 staff at Modelzone’s Lancing headquarters at risk of losing their jobs.
Mr Mordecai said: “I’ve kept in contact with a lot of staff after working with them over the years and they’ve told me how distressing it was with what was happening.
“Those that have lost their jobs are the ones that are suffering. These people have given their lives to the company. A lot of them were enthusiasts, the job was a hobby. It’s a crying shame what’s happened.”
He confirmed that he could buy back the company in a private capacity.
He said: “There’s a place on the high street for Modelzone. What it offers is totally unique. It’s basically a male crèche.
“We’ve had a look at it. I don’t know if it’s going to be too hard to resurrect.”
Richard Hawes, of Deloitte, said: “Modelzone has historically been profitable, however in recent years the company entered into leases for new stores that proved to be lossmaking.
This, coupled with the growth in online competition, has resulted in Modelzone generating losses over the last couple of years, which the board of directors has now concluded is unsustainable and sought the appointment of administrators.”
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