Tapi Carpets accuses rivals of breaching lockdown rules

One of the UK’s biggest carpet and floor tile sellers has launched a scathing attack on its rivals for continuing to keep stores open against updated Government advice.

Tapi Carpets, which has 140 stores across the country, closed its English stores last Thursday for a month following the latest lockdown rules.

But rival businesses Carpetright and United Carpets continue welcoming customers into stores despite new clarifications from the Government.

Carpetright stock
Carpetright stock

Chief executive James Sturrock told the PA news agency his competitors were “knowingly breaking the rules” by remaining open.

He added: “It is simply astonishing that some large carpet retailers are continuing to openly flout the rules, which now make it crystal clear that in England we are all classed as non-essential retailers and required to close our stores for the duration of the national lockdown.

“As soon as the latest Government guidance was provided, Tapi like many other law abiding retailers chose to do the right thing and closed our standalone stores to help in the fight against the virus and protect our teams and customers.”

The boss said he sought clarification from the Government after deciding to close all stores in England a week ago in line with homeware sites being treated as “non-essential” retailers.

New guidance from the Office for Public Safety and Standards issued on Monday and seen by PA, states: “Carpet stores are to be treated as homeware and therefore not essential retail and public guidance will be updated to reflect this”.

Carpetright has since said stores will remain open for appointments only.

A message on United Carpets’ website said: “All of our stores are open. Based on existing government guidelines we will continue to deliver customer orders; our independent fitters will also continue to fit floorcoverings as planned.”

Carpet and flooring fitting is permitted during England’s second lockdown with additional safety measures in place to protect fitters and customers.

Retailers in England selling furnishings, homewares, clothing and electrical goods were all told to close their doors for a month last Thursday.

Supermarkets, garden centres, bike shops, newsagents and those selling food, pet supplies and DIY shops were classed as “essential” and allowed to trade.

But several big-name brands have decided to continue trading in stores – taking advantage of loopholes and different interpretations.

Andrew Goodacre, the chief executive of Bira, a trade association representing 3,000 independent retailers, criticised the decisions by big-name high street brands.

He said: “We have been pushing for clarity and we are pleased to see some clearer guidance on the types of essential shop and the products available.

“However, we already have concerns that large stores are flouting the rules and would question the percentage of ‘essential’ items sold through the likes of B&M and The Original Factory Shop.

“We are also aware that Carpetright is open whereas we have advised all our members selling flooring to close.

“The government need to make it very clear to these large companies that they cannot open or can only sell what they deem essential, not a whole range of Christmas trees and lights.”

A Carpetright spokesperson said: “We’re continuing to serve our customers because we sell materials that are essential for the completion of building and renovation projects as well as maintenance and repairs.

“Living without flooring, particularly in the winter months, is cold, unsafe and uncomfortable so we’re doing everything we can to ensure people aren’t left without.”

United Carpets did not respond to a request for comment.