The buyer of embattled PK Furniture says the chain is going to be nothing like it used to be, with a complete rebrand and change of direction.

PK Furniture, which at one point ran 17 North Island stores, went into receivership in May owing its creditors $22 million.

It was recently bought by newly-incorporated firm Highbury Group, whose sole director Stephen Salmon told the Herald he planned to keep five stores and retain about 50-60 of its 150 staff.

Salmon, who has been in retail for the past 42 years, was PK's general manager of sales and marketing for about a year before it went into receivership.


"Literally weeks after I started it became pretty clear what a big hole that business was in and how much work it required," he said, not least the name, which stood for "Price Killer".

"One of the first things I said to the owner was that in the hostile world we live in, using the word 'killer' isn't such an endearing thing. So we dropped that within a few months and we introduced the PK Panda."

Salmon said he had faith in the company's business model, but said the reason it had failed was because of a "distressed owner as opposed to being a distressed business".

"I agree that the name is definitely tainted and I fully understand and appreciate that. We are going to create what I believe is a brand new entity and a brand new identity."

The new business, which had yet to come up with a trading name, had let go of all former directors and would introduce a completely new line of stock, while trying to retain a position in the value-for-money end of the market, where most purchases were made.

"The PK business had a very loyal customer base so the challenge is to retain as many of them as possible but then also look to introduce a broader base," Salmon said.

The stores that would be kept were in Manukau, Sylvia Park, Dominion Rd, Pukekohe and Hamilton.

Salmon, who is originally from Surrey in the UK, said he was "born into retail" with his parents owning a greengrocer.


He left school aged of 15 and got his first job in the butchery of a Sainsbury's supermarket, working his way up the organisation's hierarchy to management level at a time the chain was going through a huge expansion.

He moved to New Zealand with his Kiwi wife and fortuitously met retailing giant Sir David Levene, who he said became something of a father figure to him. His own father died when Salmon was 8.

Salmon, 57, has held high-ranking positions with the Levene home decorating chain, Briscoe Group, Guthrie Bowron, Smiths City and Rebel Sport.

The latter, which was founded by another New Zealand retail magnate, Rod Duke, Salmon sees as his brand.

"I spent many years building Rebel and Rod even used to say I was Rebel Sport. The Mad Butcher used to call me Mr Rebel," he said.

Salmon hoped to open the five stores simultaneously in mid-September.

He said he would try to help the customers who had ordered but not received their purchases from the old owners of PK furniture.