The Business On... Lord Harris of Peckham, Chairman and CEO, Carpetright

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The Independent Online

He's still going strong then?

Yes indeed: his 50 years in the retail business make him a veteran of the sort of tough times we are currently enduring. And while 2010 has turned out to be just as difficult as expected – Lord Harris said it would be one of the hardest of his career – you'll note that yesterday's figures reveal that Carpetright remains profitable.

What's his secret?

Experience must help. He started his career in 1957, aged just 15, when his father died of cancer and he took over the family carpet shop in Peckham. Three years later, his mother died too – had she lived, she would have seen her son turn the business into a 1,600-branch chain.

And that was Carpetright?

Actually no. Lord Harris saw his first business taken away from him in a hostile takeover in 1988. It will have been no consolation at all that the new owners, saddled with debt, would go under within three years. Lord Harris, meanwhile, started over, founding Carpetright in 1991 with a single store in east London.

So he repeated the trick?

It would seem so. Carpetright has been through some tough times, but today it has more than 700 stores, including its chains in Holland and Belgium, and is very much thiscountry's market leader.

He must be very driven?

He's certainly hugely competitive. A talented sportsman, as a boy hecaptained school football and cricket teams before taking up tennis (and making it to junior Wimbledon one year). His prowess made up for a lack of academic talent – his dyslexia, and the early departure, meant he left school with little in the way of formal qualifications.

So how long will he carry on?

Who knows? His son Martin is now Carpetright's commercial director and it is clear Lord Harris would like to see him take over the business one day. Retirement would give him and his wife Pauline – who he met when she taught him to ride – more time to spend with their stable of showjumpers and eventing horses. But don't hold your breath.