David Prosser's Outlook: A happier view of the retail sector

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The Independent Online

If the latest doom-ridden economic data has left you feeling depressed, here's something that might lift your spirits. At least one world-renowned financier seems to know more about the fragile state of Britain's housing market than the rest of us. How else to explain the £15m investment made by Cascade, Bill Gates's vehicle, in Carpetright?

That's not a mistake, in case you wondered. That's Bill Gates, as in Microsoft billionaire.

And Carpetright, as in the flooring retailer run by Lord Harris of Peckham.

On the face of it, Carpetright is just about the last company investors would want to snap up 3 per cent of right now. It clearly stands to be a victim of the consumer slowdown and is particularly exposed given the fact that people tend to buy new carpets when they're buying or selling a property.

With respect to Lord Harris, it has to be said that Mr Gates's previous investments in the UK – mostly in the luxury hotel sector – stand in marked contrast to Carpetright, though perhaps he now feels the need to diversify.

On the other hand, crueller internet wits are already suggesting that the Microsoft tycoon is simply looking for a carpet under which he can sweep those nasty little bugs with which Vista users have become rather too familiar. Or that Mr Gates knows a thing or two about how to cope with crashes.