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Carpetright reports rise in multichannel sales, though overall sales and profits fall

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Carpetright says multichannel sales involving online and the call centre have “grown significantly” in its latest financial year. Nonetheless, sales and profits were down over the year as consumers held back on spending.

The carpets-to-beds business says that while the “vast majority” of its customers prefer to see floor coverings in its stores before they buy, the internet is now a “vital research tool” for many of them. A multichannel strategy involving smartphones and tablet computers is now a “necessity”.

Its multichannel strategy includes operates alongside a programme of streamlining and refurbishing its store network in the light of growing digital sales. Some 275 of its stores had been refurbished by the end of its latest financial year, including 105 smaller sample-only stores, which have the benefit of reducing operating costs while still offering customers choice. In the year to April 26, the multichannel combination of online and the call centre turned “significant growth” in sales that made it equivalent to one of Carpetright’s top five stores.

That growth is monitored as an average of 900,000 customers a week (15% up on the same time last year), some drawn in through an improved search strategy involving SEO and PPC, visit the website and go on to book appointments or order samples. Those steps are followed up by the call centre or in store. “We have also continued to focus on improving our conversion to sales ratio through a call centre and improved follow-up at store level,” Carpetright said in its full year statement today.

The retailer said it had transferred its multichannel learning to its Dutch business where its website was relaunched in January with sample ordering, appointment booking, call to buy and online payment functionality. “We are encouraged by the early results of this activity,” said the company.

Despite the multichannel activity, however, Carpetright today reported falling sales and profits. In the year to April 26, it turned over £447.7m, 2.2% down on the previous year. UK sales of £375.8m were down by 1.5% on last time, as the company slimmed down its store network by a net six stores to 614. Like-for-like sales, which strip out the effects of store openings and closures, were down by 0.2%. In the rest of Europe sales of £71.9m were down by 5.4% following “difficult trading” in the Netherlands.

Pre-tax losses widened to £7.2m from £5.1m, after exceptional charges of £11.8m, property costs related to the reorganisation of its store network.

Lord Harris, executive chairman, who will become non-executive chairman when new chief executive Wilf Walsh joins on July 21, said the last year had been “challenging” for the company despite the improvement in the UK economy. Its markets, he said, were still “highly competitive and deal-driven”.

He added: “Against this backdrop we continue to take steps to develop the business. While we anticipate trading conditions will remain challenging, we expect these actions will underpin an improvement in group performance in the new financial year.”

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