Allied Carpets tests new markets

Allied Carpets is rolling out beyond its traditional retail park heartland and is opening new stores on the high street.

Chief executive Clive Hutchings said it was testing new store types, with outlets slated to open at upmarket Kingston upon Thames and Evesham in Worcestershire.

The 4,500 sq ft (420 sq m) Kingston outlet will be housed in the two-storey former BT building. It will compete with classy carpet manufacturers Brintons, which opened a flagship in the town recently.

Hutchings said the whole profile of the Kingston store would reflect the character of the high street, with 'subtle changes' to the Allied Carpets livery that would not detract from its strong brand presence.

It is scheduled to open at the beginning of December. The Evesham store, located on the market square, has just been signed off.

Allied, bought by French company Tapis-Saint Maclou in 1999, is the UK's second-largest carpet retailer behind Carpetright, with about 220 stores.

In the most recent accounts filed at Companies House, the retailer generated sales of£212 million in 2001.

Since Hutchings joined at start of 2002, he has concentrated on upgrading stores, strengthening the product offer and improving margins.

Retail Knowledge Bank research director Robert Clark said Allied is a mass-market brand and is trying to increase its reach by 'appealing to more niche buyers'. Allied is expected to file its latest results soon.