Carpetright bucks the sales trend

NIGEL COPE

Sir Phil Harris, chairman and chief executive of Carpetright, continued to buck the trend on the high street yesterday when he reported booming sales while many other retailers have issued profits warnings or gloomy trading statements.

His fast-growing carpet warehouse chain yesterday reported a 30 per cent increase in sales in the 12 weeks since the end of April, although there was no news of a widely rumoured share buy-back.

Speaking at the company's annual meeting in Essex, Sir Phil described the results as "satisfactory" as the shares bounded ahead a further 11p to 311p.

The sales increase is all the more impressive as it is achieved against an economic backdrop of weak consumer demand and a dormant housing market.

The increase includes sales achieved at three new stores opened since the year end, which brings the total to 188. Sir Phil told shareholders that the new stores were all trading well and that 30 more Carpetright outlets would open this year.

Three new Premier Carpet concessions have also opened and are exceeding their budgets. Eight more will open over the next three months and 20 should be up and running by next April. Premier Carpet concessions have been opened in branches of MFI and Sainsbury Homebase. They carry no stock but guarantee that carpets ordered will be fitted within five days of purchase. Other outlets are planned for department stores.

Sir Phil also said the expansion of the Rainham warehouse was on schedule and should be completed early next year.

Last month Carpetright reported a 40 per cent leap in profits to pounds 19.7m and a 50 per cent rise in the dividend. The company now controls more than 12 per cent of the UK carpet market and is aiming at 25 per cent by the end of the decade. The company has expanded into Northern Ireland with three stores. Sir Phil's shareholding in the company is now worth more than pounds 50m.

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