Antler has been totally silent over my £179 broken suitcase

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Last month, I spent £179 on an Antler suitcase that broke on its first trip. It is now unusable, but Antler has not responded to my five email complaints. It does not have a phone line and has also ignored my messages via social media. I am now lumbered with a large broken object that I do not have space to keep in my small flat. But, if I throw it away, I will not be able to claim a refund or replacement. I naively believed that Antler was a trustworthy British brand that makes quality products, but looking at online reviews it would appear 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 services. Email and a webform is the only way to contact the company. My email to customer service met the same response as yours. That is, silence.

The 108-year-old brand trades on a reputation for old-fashioned British quality, so what’s happened? Since 2010 it’s been in the hands of private equity firms and, by 2018, was reporting a pre-tax loss of £3.9m. In 2020, it was bought by ATR Holdings, the company of fashion entrepreneur Michael Lewis. Within three months it had passed into administration, blaming the effect of travel restrictions during the pandemic. Its 18 shops were closed and more than 160 of the 199 staff lost their jobs. Two months later, in July 2020, it was bought by ATR Brands, established by Lewis four weeks after Antler’s demise.

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It seems staffing levels have not risen in pace with demand. The company eventually agreed to replace your suitcase when, after 18 days of fruitless emails, you informed them you would be contacting the Observer. And I eventually unearthed a contact in head office who admitted shortfalls in customer service. “We’re aware we are not currently keeping up with the volume of customer inquiries since travel has returned, and sincerely apologise to all those who have been affected,” it says. “We are in the process of scaling up our team to deliver the level of service customers should expect, and will ensure no customer is penalised for delays on our part.”

As to whether it will reinstate a customer service number, it says it’s pondering “a full suite of options”.

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