Floorings giant Carpetright is making a push for the capital as it seeks out smaller high street stores in London.
Carpetright chief executive Darren Shapland said he would “love” to open a shop on furniture hotspot Tottenham Court Road, as well as areas such as Clapham Junction, Wandsworth, Battersea, Edgware Road and North Finchley. He has identified room for 10 to 15 more London shops.
“We’d like a lot more high street stores in London, we’re underspaced in cities,” Shapland said. He added that quality stores can be hard to come by and that the expansion would happen “one by one”.
Carpetright is already realigning its store portfolio. Thirteen leases were renewed in its first half, with a rent reduction of 10% on average. A net 10 stores were closed.
The move comes as Carpetright’s recovery in the UK moved up a gear. Underlying operating profit in the UK rocketed 45.9% to £5.2m in the six months to October 27.
“We’re quite pleased with the UK performance,” said Shapland. “It comes off the back of self help.”
Shapland said he was “confident” about the Boxing Day Sales, but remained cautious on the outlook generally.
“We’re still planning for the next six months being tough,” he said.
In the period Carpetright focused on revamping the store estate, expanding its beds offer and improving customer service.
Shapland has concluded his review of the business, which he began when he joined Carpetright seven months ago. He said he found the retailer “well managed” and added: “No fundamental shift in strategy is required.”
However, he will accelerate certain aspects of the strategy, such as the stores, ranges, the beds offer and digital.
Shapland said that online sales account for 1% of sales at present, and that ecommerce will “never be massive” for Carpetright. However, he said he wanted to “digitalise” the ordering process, so that, for example, customers receive text messages when the carpet fitter is on the way.
The retailer is also broadening its range to appeal to more customers, introducing more branded carpets. “A customer should not come in looking for a floor covering that we don’t have,” said Shapland.
He added that the beds business is performing strongly, now accounting for 6.6% of total sales. Shapland said that with “sharp” prices and a strong range, the retailer will now focus on building brand awareness.
He added: “There’s no reason why beds shouldn’t do the same sales per sq ft as carpets, if anything they could do more.”
While the UK put in a strong performance, European profits plummeted 93% to £200,000 as the Netherlands suffered from weak consumer confidence.
Shapland said the Netherlands was “caught in a consumer downturn on the back of political instability and austerity”.