Carpetright’s founder Lord Harris to retire

Kasmira Jefford
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CARPETRIGHT announced yesterday that its founder Lord Harris would be retiring from the board in September along with his son Martin, spelling an end of an era for the family-run group.

Lord Harris, 72, will hand over the day to day running of the business to a new chief executive, Wilf Walsh, in July. He will retire at the group’s annual general meeting in September but will stay on as an adviser.

Walsh, a retail leisure industry veteran who has worked at Coral, HMV and European betting firm Fortuna, will be charged with steadying a group that has suffered a string of profit warnings since October.

Lord Harris originally stepped down as chief executive in 2012 after 24 years at the helm but resumed the role last year after the shock exit of his self-appointed successor Darren Shapland.

He said that with Walsh’s strong online and retail credentials, the group was certain it found the right person.

“I am confident that I will be leaving the business in safe hands,” he said.

Lord Harris began his career on the high street aged 15 and founded Carpetright in 1988 creating Britain’s largest flooring retailer with 620 stores.

His departure will mark a new chapter for the group. Cancer Research finance chief Ian Kenyon, who remembers working alongside him as finance director in 2005, said: “‘He is one of the most generous, warm hearted and fun loving people I have worked alongside.”

The Harris family owns almost 20 per cent of Carpetright – although Lord Harris and his son Martin’s departure prompted analysts to speculate whether the family will sell out.


Born in Peckham in 1942, Lord Harris left school at 15 to run his family’s carpet business after his father’s death.

He inherited three shops and made his first acquisition at 16, a shop on Balham High Road.

Twenty years later, he had 93 stores and floated his company Harris Queensway in 1978.

He set up Carpetright after Harris Queensway was sold in 1988. It has 620 stores today.

The retail stalwart has donated millions of pounds to charity and is also known for his work in the education sector.

He began sponsoring schools in 1989, with the Harris City Technology College in Croydon. Today the Harris Federation backs 27 highly successful London academies.

Lord Harris has also served on the board of hospitals including Guy’s and Lewisham NHS trust.

Lord Harris and fellow businessman Lord Kirkham own Hello Sanctos, a horse that won Olympic gold in 2012.