Last month I spent £179 on an Antler suitcase which broke on the first trip. It is now unusable, but Antler has not responded to my five email complaints. He has no phone line and also ignores my social media messages. Now I am loaded with a large broken item that I have no room to store in my small apartment. But if I throw it away, I won’t be able to ask for a refund or replacement. I naively believed that Antler was a reliable British brand that produced quality products, but looking at the reviews online it seems that many others are in the same position.
EB, London

Review website Trustpilot tells a similar story, with customers reporting faulty purchases and unresponsive customer service. Email and web form are the only ways to contact the company. My email to support received the same response as yours. That is, silence.

The 108-year-old brand trades on a reputation for old-fashioned British quality, so what happened? It has been in the hands of private equity firms since 2010 and by 2018 had made a pre-tax loss of £3.9m. In 2020, it was acquired by ATR Holdings, the company of fashion entrepreneur Michael Lewis. He joined the administration within three months, blaming the effect of travel restrictions during the pandemic. 18 stores were closed and more than 160 of the 199 employees lost their jobs. Two months later, in July 2020, it was acquired by ATR Brands, a company founded by Lewis four weeks after Antler’s death.

Staff numbers do not seem to be keeping up with demand. The company eventually agreed to replace your suitcase when, after 18 days of fruitless emails, you informed them that you were going to contact The observer. And eventually I found a contact at head office who acknowledged the shortcomings in customer service. “We know we are not keeping up with the volume of customer inquiries now that travel has returned, and we sincerely apologize to anyone affected,” it said. “We are in the process of expanding our team to provide the level of service that customers expect and ensure that no customer is penalized for delays on our part.”

As for whether it will reinstate the support number, it says it is considering “a full range of options.”

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