Interview with Peter Brown of “Rochford Furnishings” (23rd November 2010)
Rochford Life: Peter, this business has been here quite a long while?
Peter: Well I worked for the man who had the shop before. I’ve been in this shop for about forty years. I was about 21 when I first came here. I worked for him for a few years doing just his carpets; he was in furniture before and when I came here it was mostly furniture and I did carpets for him at weekends, and then he wanted to increase carpets so I joined him properly to do carpets. I took it over probably seven or eight years after that. About thirty five years we’ve had the shop.
RL: And the sort of things you do?
Peter: It used to be a little bit of upholstery, carpets and everything and we’ve gone more and more on to carpets. As a general rule we don’t touch laminates and wood etc. We’ve stuck to what we know best – carpets. We do blinds and curtains as a separate thing but part of the same business. Mostly our work is by recommendations with very little advertising. We don’t employ any subcontractors but there are three of us that lay carpets
RL: What is the easiest way of categorising carpets?
Peter: Well when we first started we used to do a lot of traditional patterned Axminster carpets which don’t sell so much these days. Styles have changes. Mostly people go for plain twists or mottled twists and there are basically two types there – the 80:20 wool twist (80% wool, 20% nylon), the traditional twist, and we sell a lot of that, and man-made stain resistant carpet which is a twist again, very similar in appearance and better quality as far as stain resistance goes, but everybody still likes wool because of its resilience and it’s softer and also it springs back better. There’s not an awful lot of cost difference between them. Most of our carpets that we sell are twists, plain or mottled.
RL: What causes price variation then?
Peter: Mainly design. If you get something with a pattern on it, it pushes the price right up. I suppose the cheaper end of the carpet range will be man-made and the middle to top end is going to be wool. If you have a medium price carpet, you are better off to go for the top end of the nylon ones or the bottom end of the wool ones. Don’t go too cheap on the wool ones because they don’t wear so well.
RL: So if we were thinking of carpeting a staircase. What would you advise?
Peter: Either a reasonably good wool twist or a fairly good nylon stain-resistant twist pile, but not too long a pile. We do quite a number of the natural fibre woven ones. They have the advantage that they don’t show the traffic marks and don’t tread down, but they are nearly always beige or brown, and people like to go for a bit of a colour nowadays, and so we do sell a bit more in colours. The longer pile is for lounges and bedrooms
RL: Do you deal with vinyl floorings?
Peter: Yes, we do a lot of cushion vinyls in kitchens and hallways and conservatories. When wood came in we tended to do a lot of wood-effect vinyls.
RL: Do you go for a thicker one for better hard wearing?
Peter: No not necessarily. It’s really the top layer that determines the wear ability of the vinyl. If you have a very thick top layer and thin backing, you are better off than something that has a thick backing and very thin top layer.
RL: Do you do rugs?
Peter: Yes, mostly we have display rugs on a stand, and we get them in to order what the customer wants. We do Chinese and Indian rugs and things like that and we have quite a large display stand of it in the back area. Mostly today there is a system where you can get them very quick, mostly within two or three days. For carpet laying, mostly on average, our turn round is about a week to ten days. If it’s a whole house done or needs to be done at particular limited times it may take longer but mostly it is ordered and done within a week, and our price is nearly always supply and fitting by our own fitters
RL: You mentioned backing just now. Most carpets don’t have a backing?
Peter: Most normal carpets require an underlay. A lot of the cheaper-end ones now replace the old foam back with felt backing which you can lay on top of an underlay or solely on its own. If people have an underlay down already that’s only been down say five years then they can use that to give it more body. If you have an old timber floor you are better off with an underlay. If you have felt backing you can always utilise your old underlay but it’s always better to have new underlay.
RL: Can you give any guidance at to price ranges?
Peter: All of our prices include fitting and I suppose on average fitted price would start from about ten pounds a metre and the sky’s the limit really. An average wool twist pile would be about twenty to twenty five pounds a metre. Obviously Axminster patterned ones are dearer up to about fifty pounds a metre.
RL: Would it be fair to say you pay for what you get?
Peter: Yes, sometimes you do but I think that is where we score because we’ve been around a long time and we can give advice and we want you to come back which you’ll do if the advice was good. For example, with the plain ones you’ll get a certain price for a really good carpet, but if the choice of colours is not much, that will be cheaper, so if you say I want a beige or brown carpet and I want an 80:20 twist, you can get one that is forty pounds a metre and one that is twenty pounds a metre and they will be exactly the same quality but if one is mixed in with five hundred colours you will obviously end up paying more for that one.
RL: Well OK, thanks Peter, I think you’ve given enough to think about. The short, easy answer is clearly come and ask you for your advice, built from many years in the business. Thank you for that.