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Carpetright owner's son to launch own flooring chain

Carpetright store

The son of ”carpet king” Baron Harris of Peckham is planning to compete with the business his father founded, Carpetright, with his own chain of 200 flooring stores.

Martin Harris, who left Carpetright last year after 23 years at the business, said he hoped to open the first store this summer. He is aiming to attract a more affluent shopper than the former family business and take advantage of an anticipated rise in sales of home furnishings this year after a period in the doldrums.

“There’s enough room in the market for more than one national retailer. There’s room for us both,” he told the trade journal Retail Week.

“A lot of flooring stores are not aspirational and I want people to be inspired by the possibility of what they can do with their home,” he said. “People are spending money on their homes as there’s no point keeping it in the bank.”

He said his father was supportive of his plan to open 200 stores over five years. The business will be chaired by Sir Harry Djanogly, who served as a Carpetright non-executive director between 1993 and 2005. It is not clear if Lord Harris will have any role.

Analysts said his son’s plans were ambitious and might benefit from his father’s expertise and contacts in the floorcovering and property worlds. “This is not a second coming. Martin is a likeable guy but is not viewed as in the same league as his father,” said one analyst who declined to be named.

Harris junior left Carpetright, where he was development director, last autumn, a few weeks before his father stepped down as chairman of the company he founded in 1988. The chain is now run by Wilf Walsh, who was brought in after Harris’s appointed successor, Darren Shapland, stepped down in 2013 just 17 months into the job.

At the time, Harris said his son had become “very disillusioned” and felt let down after the shock departure of Shapland, who he had been instrumental in hiring from J Sainsbury.

Harris junior sold down the vast majority of his personally held shares in Carpetright, worth nearly £500,000, last summer. The family then gradually cut its stake in the business from nearly 17% to less than 3% by December last year.

It’s not clear if Lord Harris, 72, will become involved in his son’s latest venture. The Conservative party donor has ploughed some of his fortune into academy schools in south London via the Harris Federation and also into equestrian pursuits, backing a gold medal-winning horse at the 2012 Olympics in London.

Harris first became involved in retail at the age of 15 in 1957, when he was left in charge of a Peckham market stall and two shops after his father died.

Source : Sarah Butler - The Guardian

18 February 2015

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