Carpetright is to plough more cash into its advertising this year as it seeks to take advantage of competitors suffering in the recession.

The carpets specialist will up its ad spend on TV and the press from May, and open between 12 and 15 stores this financial year.

Carpetright chairman and chief executive Lord Harris said it had benefited from the “upheaval” at its rival Allied Carpets, as its French owner Saint-Maclou is reported to be in discussions about a possible sale.

Lord Harris said: “If Allied was broken up we would be interested in parts of it.”

Carpetright’s UK and Ireland like-for-like sales fell 2.9 per cent in the five weeks to January 31 but the retailer managed to hold on to margins. This figure excludes the performance of its bed business Sleepright, which it acquired last year.

In the 13 weeks to January 31, like-for-like sales, excluding Sleepright, slumped 15.9 per cent. Total sales decreased 13.2 per cent, including a 2.2 per cent lift at Sleepright, which Harris estimates will be a£60m business by 2012.

Sales in Europe increased 10.1 per cent in local currency, with like-for-like sales down 0.6 per cent. Harris said that margins remained flat and predicted the retailer would have been up 1 to 1.5 per cent had the euro been stable.

Blue Oar analyst Ian MacDougall said it is “impressive” that margins were flat. He said: “Given the weakness of the market and the fact that 70 per cent of supplies are priced in euros, this is quite an achievement.”

Harris said the whole carpet market is down about 25 to 30 per cent, but forecast that Carpetright’s sales will level back up to flat by September.

Numis analyst Andrew Wade said this forecast seemed optimistic, but admitted: “We are beginning to see some green shoots for Carpetright, including£2.5m of cost saves next year.” Wade also expected a “reduction in the half-year net debt position of£10m by year-end”.

Harris added: “We’re in a great position going forward when trade picks up."