Darren Shapland, former Sainsbury’s and Carpetright finance director, six weeks ago became the first chief executive to run Carpetright since founder Lord Harris stepped back from the day-to-day running of the business.
Shapland, along with group finance director Neil Page, speaks to Retail Week about theexpected slump in profits and the improved performance in the second half.
Retail Week: How are you settling in?
Darren Shapland: It’s been a bit of a whirlwind. I haven’t been in the business for seven years but the underlying business is still very robust.
How will you do things differently to Lord Harris?
DS: The first six weeks I was in learning and understanding mode. Lord Harris is one of the great legends of retailing and he’s staying heavily involved in two or three areas – buying, property and also stores.
From my perspective the business is very well run and has done well through this downturn. There are now a number of other self help initiatives we can take, but I don’t see things changing much. We will utilise his experience.
Will you have the freedom to do what you want to do under Lord Harris?
DS: I wouldn’t have taken the job if I thought I wasn’t [going to have freedom]. We’ll have absolute freedom to do what we want to do.
What will be your biggest challenge?
DS: The biggest challenge will be how we take market share, and I’m pretty confident we can. We have big opportunities in growing share and building the beds business.
Profits were down but the second half improved in terms of like-for-likes. How do you explain that?
Neil Page: Profits are at the top of the range. The things we’re taking on ourselves are beginning to get traction – range and margin, store revamps, the internet, beds. It’s encouraging but it’s too early to call a broader trend.
We’ve got to focus on actions that improve our performance.
Store revamps seem to be going well. How long will it take you to revamp the whole estate?
DS: We’ve done 39 before year end, and they are performing north of 10% up, so payback will be under a year. We’ve done 20 so far this year and should do more than 100 by the end of the year. They have been the first store revamps for a relatively long period of time. If all goes to plan it should be a two to three year roll out. We’re very encouraged.
You closed 49 stores last year and 88 leases up for renewal over the next five years. How many more shops will shut?
DS: Last year was extraordinary [for closures]. We won’t see a radical change to the estate going forward. It will be more about renegotiation. We will look at overall clustering and limit where we have overlap.