, formerly Doncaster Furnishing Stores
, is a national furniture retailer in the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...
which specialises in sofas and soft furnishings. It serves the lower end of the furniture market and offers credit terms on its goods.
The company was founded by Graham Kirkham, now Baron Kirkham of Old Cantley
Graham Kirkham, Baron Kirkham CVO , is an English businessman famous for founding sofa retailer Dfs.Currently Executive Chairman of DFS Furniture Company Ltd, Kirkham is a strong political and financial supporter of the Conservative Party, and is one of South Yorkshire's richest men, with a...
. After passing the Eleven plus exam, Kirkham attended Maltby
Maltby is a town and civil parish of 17,247 inhabitants in the Metropolitan Borough of Rotherham, South Yorkshire, England, situated in a rural area about 7 miles east of Rotherham and 12 miles north-east of Sheffield...
A grammar school is one of several different types of school in the history of education in the United Kingdom and some other English-speaking countries, originally a school teaching classical languages but more recently an academically-oriented secondary school.The original purpose of mediaeval...
and hoped to join the Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...
as a pilot. Failing to get the required five O levels, Kirkham got a job in a local furniture store.
In 1969 aged 24, Kirkham was married with two children, which he describes as great motivation.
Having visited a few manufacturers in his daily work, he decided that making furniture was relatively easy and that by cutting out the warehouse dealers in the middle of the supply chain, he could sell direct to the public at lower prices. Kirkham rented a room above a snooker
Snooker is a cue sport that is played on a green baize-covered table with pockets in each of the four corners and in the middle of each of the long side cushions. A regular table is . It is played using a cue and snooker balls: one white , 15 worth one point each, and six balls of different :...
hall in Carcroft
Carcroft is a rural village part of the Metropolitan Borough of Doncaster, South Yorkshire, England. The village is roughly six miles north north west of Doncaster.-Geography:...
, and started making furniture upstairs and retailing it downstairs.
By 1983, Darley Dale
Darley Dale, also known simply as Darley, is a town in Derbyshire, England, with a population of around 6,000 people. It lies north of Matlock, on the River Derwent and the A6 road.- History :...
–based Direct Furnishing Supplies
had become one of Northern Upholstery's biggest suppliers. When Direct Furnishing Supplies went bankrupt with debts of £900,000 on a turnover of £3,000,000, Kirkham bought it. Northern Upholstery was renamed DFS
(although branches of Northern Upholstery in Yorkshire had retained their original name until the mid 1990s) and at the time had a total of 63 stores employing 2,000 staff.
In 1993 DFS was floated on the stock market and valued at £271 million, with Kirkham and his family trusts owning just over half of the shares. This brought the Kirkham family to the attention of thieves, who in 1994 broke into the family home at Sprotborough while they were on holiday. The burglars bound and gagged the housekeeper and made off with money and jewels worth £2.4 million - later recovered - but still South Yorkshire's largest armed robbery.
In 1998 DFS announced its first drop in profits in 28 years to the London Stock Exchange
The London Stock Exchange is a stock exchange located in the City of London within the United Kingdom. , the Exchange had a market capitalisation of US$3.7495 trillion, making it the fourth-largest stock exchange in the world by this measurement...
. The company reworked its advertising to feature younger models and in 2000 DFS announced a 79 per cent profit increase.
But the revival was short lived, and in light of the continuing prevalence for Private Equity
Private equity, in finance, is an asset class consisting of equity securities in operating companies that are not publicly traded on a stock exchange....
, Kirkham took the chain private again, leveraging his family's own 9.46% stake with £150 million of family funds in an eventual £496 million deal. Kirkham told the Yorkshire Post
The Yorkshire Post is a daily broadsheet newspaper, published in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England by Yorkshire Post Newspapers, a company owned by Johnston Press...
: "It's something that's caused me fitful sleep in the time I've been thinking about it. I've no hobby, this is my hobby – it's what I do. I'm an entrepreneur. It's almost as if I can feel the adrenaline running through my veins."
On 23 April 2010, it was announced that DFS had been sold to private equity firm Advent International
Advent International is a global private equity firm focused on buyouts of middle market growth companies in Western and Central Europe, North America, Latin America and Asia...
for a reported £500 million.
DFS is the current sponsor of Crufts
Crufts is an annual international Championship conformation show for dogs organised and hosted by the Kennel Club, currently held every March at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, England. It is the largest annual dog show in the world, as declared by Guinness World Records, and lasts...
DFS has used 'Deals For Sunday' as its full name in marketing in the past.
For many years in the 1980s and 90s actor Tom Adams
Tom Adams is an English actor with roles in horror and mystery films, and several TV shows.He starred as Charles Vine in Licensed to Kill and the sequels Where the Bullets Fly and Somebody's Stolen Our Russian Spy .His television credits include General...
was the face of DFS's television advertisements. He famously read out the catchphrase "Darley-Dale, Measham, Droitwich, Grantham, Northampton, Shrewsbury, Cannock, Fenton and Banbury" at the end of each commercial. Eventually so many new stores opened that this listing was stopped.
One television commercial by DFS was banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (United Kingdom)
The Advertising Standards Authority is the self-regulatory organisation of the advertising industry in the United Kingdom. The ASA is a non-statutory organisation and so cannot interpret or enforce legislation. However, its code of advertising practice broadly reflects legislation in many instances...
following complaints that the company had doctored the footage to inflate the perceived size of their sofas, relative to the actresses.