Boom boost for cabs and carpets

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The Independent Online
There was fresh evidence of the consumer boom yesterday when Allied Carpets, Britain's second-largest carpet retailer, announced soaring sales boosted by building society windfalls and the buoyant housing market while the major maker of traditional London taxis is set to make record sales this year, beating its previous best at the height of the last boom in 1989.

Allied Carpets said sales had been rampant since mid-June after a weak period ahead of the election as wary consumers waited to see if a change of government would affect economic prospects. Sales have risen by 14 per cent in the past six weeks, excluding new openings. Sales of carpets costing more than pounds 1,000 have risen sharply.

The company plans to open 40 stores this year under its Allied Carpets and Carpetland formats in a move which will create 280 jobs.

Managing director Ray Nethercott said: "The consumer withdrew dramatically from spending on high-ticket durables like carpets ahead of the election. But since then consumer confidence has been strong. The only dampener is interest rates but I don't think they are going to go up so much to knock things off the rails."

London cabbies are also cashing in on the consumer upturn, according to Manganese Bronze, Britain's biggest taxi maker, which announced it had produced 2,822 vehicles in the past 12 months, an increase of 11 per cent.

Bill Gillespie, its finance director, said yesterday: "Our sales in London are buoyant at the moment. We are approaching record production levels this year. If taxi drivers feel the pinch they refuse to buy a new taxi so they must be doing good business. They are even buying added extras such as air conditioning."

One analyst said: "Taxi drivers' success is closely linked to the business sector and as such they are doing a roaring trade. That is why it is so difficult to find one when you want one."

According to Allied Carpets, the feelgood factor has extended to consumers' tastes in carpets. Increasing numbers are choosing brighter, bolder colours. Wood flooring-effect materials and sisal are also growing in popularity.

Reporting a 15 per cent increase in annual sales to pounds 16.7m, Mr Nethercott said the company planned to extend its Homevision imaging system in September. The system allows customers to preview carpets digitally superimposed on digital photos of their rooms.

Record PEP sales and investment column, page 16