Lord Harris warns of high street “double dip”

Lord Harris, the founder of Carpetright – Britain’s biggest carpet retailer and a bellwether of the economy – announced that sales were below expectations, and that the market remained difficult.

Lord Harris admitted that there was “no question” Carpetright’s sales had “double-dipped”, and warned that other parts of the retail industry would probably follow suit.

“Everyone talked about a double dip, and we did,” Lord Harris told analysts. “Christmas, September, October and November were very, very good, but I’ve never seen a time where it goes back so much as it did in January.

“I understood January, with the snow – but I’m disappointed that we haven’t had the recovery in February and March like I expected, because it doesn’t normally go like that.”

Lord Harris added that Carpetright’s suppliers had told him that the overall market was down by up to 40 per cent in March and April. Lord Harris’s business didn’t do as badly – year-on-year sales actually rose by 1.5 per cent in the last three months – but still fell below expectations.

This is Carpetright’s second market warning in just over a month. 

Although Lord Harris had been “encouraged about the future” at the end of 2009, he now predicts a tough 2010, with other sectors – such as fashion retail – should also expect to see a double dip in sales.

Lord Harris founded Carpetright in 1988, when he opened the first store in Canning Town. After growing aggressively through acquisitions, the business now has just under 700 stores, and is considered a bellwether of the retail industry.

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