Treading a new path towards growth

October 8, 2021

With a history dating back more than 140 years, Karpet Mills’ name is firmly engraved in the region’s retail landscape. Yet far from resting on its successful past, the business is pushing ahead to further bolster its market share. Spearheading this drive is Designer Flooring, which complements Karpet Mills’ existing high-value, low-cost range with premium brand, bespoke carpet, wood and luxury vinyl tile flooring services. Here, director Joel Dickinson tells Steven Hugill more about the endeavour.

Well, in the case of Karpet Mills, a great deal actually. Still under the guidance of the Dickinson family that laid the present-day business’ first foundation stones in 1878, Karpet Mills is an acknowledged byword for quality and trust, a symbol of value-driven service delivered with a local feel.

It has, though, further meaning. Take, for example, its genealogy. Every member of the male Dickinson dynasty carries – or has carried – the first name John. The custom – continued by sixth generation director Joel, who is officially John Robert Joel – proudly points to Karpet Mills’ forerunners, who, among other things, made cabinets, sold furniture and, for a time, even produced coffins.

But it does something else too.

By maintaining the tradition, it reflects a commitment to principles first set out more than 140 years ago.

Essentially, markets and styles may evolve, but the Dickinson family’s dedication to honest, personable service that provides customers with unique, value-for- money products, will always endure.

And nowhere is this ethos more underlined than through its luxury Designer Flooring venture.

Launched in 2018 at Karpet Mills’ Hexham branch, the endeavour now operates from a second 10,000sq ft showroom in the firm’s Newcastle Kingston Park base, as well as through smaller spaces in its Gateshead, Benton and Hetton-le-Hole sites.

Comprising the region’s largest selection of premium carpets and flooring from high-end brands including Axminster, Amtico – of which Designer Flooring is
an exclusive retail partner – and Hugh Mackay, the Kingston Park hub offers customers a range of bespoke styles and colours.

“History has always taught us to be cautious but to move the business on too,” says Joel.

“We take measured steps to grow, and Designer Flooring is helping us do just that.

“Our past is so important; we pride ourselves on offering real small family business levels of service while having the bigger systems and buying power to offer the pricing and capacity of the big PLC carpet retailers.

“That has always been our unique selling point – we offer first-rate customer service, unbeatable prices and product ranges, and specialist fitting from a skilled and knowledgeable team.

“And we took all of that in mind when we launched Designer Flooring.

“We didn’t want to dilute our history, so from day one we set our stall out to ensure it would be a totally separate offering that would have products we didn’t do a significant volume of prior to its launch.
“And our brands have a real pull,” continues Joel, who reveals the addition of Designer Flooring at Kingston Park was complemented by a refurbishment of the site’s Karpet Mills showroom.

“Amtico is a big product – our Amtico One display offers the brand’s full range and includes a bespoke service that allows customers to have any design cut and coloured to their specification.

“But we’ve put the same investment into our other suppliers too, which include several solid wood and engineered wood flooring manufacturers, and this means we have great variety and range.

“On the carpet side, we’ve got all the woven Axminster premium suppliers and we work with all the natural product brands too, such as Crucial Trading and Alternative Flooring.

“We do everything.”

And with the enforced lockdowns caused by coronavirus spurring many customers into bringing forward home renovation plans over the last year-and- a-half, Joel says Designer Flooring has provided – and is continuing to deliver – a real boost to the business, with its market-wide offer attracting both existing and new clients.

“The home improvement sector has had an enormous spike in demand,” he says.

“We’ve seen people thinking that if they can’t go away on holiday, for example, then they will do something positive instead and add more value to their homes.

“And with Designer Flooring being based alongside our Karpet Mills offer, it means we are able to cover everything from entry level products – where people are looking to fit out their first home or working to a modest budget – to the other end of the spectrum where cost isn’t necessarily the focus.

“Everyone coming through the door has commented; they can sense the investment we have made to do things properly with Designer Flooring.

“They know we are focusing on the attention to detail and the quality,” says Joel, who joined the family firm in 2010 after graduating from the University of Leeds with a chemistry degree.

However, while attracting customers keen to improve their domestic settings, Designer Flooring’s introduction has also catalysed new growth in the corporate sector, with high-profile projects at Northumberland’s Matfen Hall and Close House golf club emphasising its prowess.

Yet, while such schemes have helped extend the business’ reputation in the commercial environment – where it also works with house builders, care homes and social housing providers, and supports office refurbishments – they have also, says Joel, come to benefit the needs of regular customers.

“We did all the bedrooms and communal areas at Matfen Hall, which involved some bespoke products and the specialist fitting of a carpet, complete with hand-seamed borders, on an unbelievable original staircase,” he says.

“And such complex jobs have made it easier for us to do the retail work too.

“For example, someone might feel like a project could be complicated in their own home but, because we have seen it on a larger scale, we can take it in our stride and complete the work on budget and to the specification expected.

“You name it, we can do the project.

He adds: “We’ve got every single part of the flooring market covered with what we offer.

“And, given the journey we’ve gone through with COVID-19, it’s nice to know that if there are going to be certain sectors that do better than others, we have the strength in depth and breadth to offer everything, safe in the knowledge the business can cope very well.”

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