The following letter was sent, individually, on Monday 20th April to Messrs: Gove, Raab, Hancock and Sunak (the lockdown committee Ministers), Mark Garnier (the CF local MP), The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Trade Press.
Keeping the UK carpet industry
World-leaders is an all too often made claim by organisations. However, when it comes to manufacturing carpet, the UK can honestly say it is a world-leader. From the Kremlin to the White House, Hong Kong airport to luxury yachts, not to mention in over 50% of all UK households, when it comes to carpet, UK-produced carpet is the preferred choice. That said, we are a big-ticket item and are usually first in and last out of difficult times. The retail landscape is littered with big-name casualties and even now the likes of Carpetright are struggling.
The one beacon of hope are independent retailers. Contrary to the retail norm of recent years, independent retailers have prospered, so, when it comes to a return from the UK retail lockdown, we would urge ministers to look positively on the UK carpet industry and independent retailers in particular. Why?
- Retail carpet sales are circa £2 billion
- Independent retailers operate on the high street and in the hub of local communities
- The majority are family businesses who are steeped in the local community.
- Shop sizes are small
- Social distancing is not an issue because it is rare for there to be more than one couple in a carpet shop at any one time.
- Furthermore, appointments could easily be made over the phone
- While the fitting of carpet requires admittance to a house, it is easy to social distance
- Spending so much time at home recently is making people see things they would like to redecorate or replace – like carpet
- After a tough Brexit-dominated period, sales of flooring were up 9% in January according to BDO research, clearly demonstrating that there was/is pent-up demand
We are also as an industry closely linked to construction – indeed, contract sales are worth well more than the £2 billion of retail carpet sales.
Finally, while it is excellent to hear that the Government wants manufacturing to continue, carpet manufacturers cannot continue stockpiling carpet adding millions to their balance sheet, if they don’t have a route to market to sell them.
So, in conclusion, we are not a sexy industry but we do play a vital role in manufacturing, and we tend to be, certainly on the production and supply side, Northern and Midlands-based as opposed to Southern.
By not allowing smaller independent shops at least to open up, you would not just be putting a handbrake on the industry – you would be actually stopping it and bleeding it dry to the point of extinction. We have no doubt many ‘Mama and Papa’ operations would not survive, so leading to more empty shops on the high street.
We look forward to hearing from you.
The Carpet Foundation
The UK carpet industry’s lead body