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Behar on solid ground as it looks to get back into black

GLASGOW-based Behar Carpets has revealed it is on track to break back into the black this year as it holds its own in a tough market-place.

CONFIDENT: Behar Carpets managing director David Redman said staff job security is of paramount importance. Picture: Colin Mearns
CONFIDENT: Behar Carpets managing director David Redman said staff job security is of paramount importance. Picture: Colin Mearns

Accounts which have just become available from Companies House show Behar, which has 13 stores in Scotland and two franchised outlets in Kent, cut its operating losses from £290,666 in 2009 to £167,863 in 2010.

This was in spite of a dip in turnover from £6.88 million to £6.77m.

Managing director David Redman highlighted the impact of Arctic weather in late November and December 2010 on sales.

He said that, until bad weather hit in week 48 of the financial year to December 31 2010, sales were up 9% year-on-year.

He pointed out the snow and freezing conditions had not only hit orders late last year, with fewer customers coming into the showrooms, but had also delayed the fitting of carpets ordered previously.

Mr Redman noted sales were not booked until carpets had been fitted. And he highlighted the fact that the fourth quarter was generally a peak trading period for Behar.

Mr Redman also pointed to the fact that Behar was on track to make a profit in the current financial year to December 31, even though market conditions remained “hard”.

Recent economic data and surveys have highlighted huge pressure on UK consumers, many of them fearful about job security as swingeing public spending cuts loom. Discretionary purchases are coming under particular pressure.

However, signalling Behar is well-placed to cope with this difficult consumer and wider economic backdrop, Mr Redman said: “We are definitely looking to move into profitability this year, as long as the weather doesn’t come along and do the same as last year and take away, fundamentally, the icing off the cake.”

Mr Redman added: “I know that the market-place is hard. I know it is hard for everyone. I am looking to hit profitability come the end of this year. If I hit break-even, I will be happy. If I make a small profit, I will be happy.”

Behar is owned by Martin Slater. Mr Slater is the grandson of Victor Behar, who founded the business in 1920 when he opened a small shop in Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow, selling and repairing Oriental carpets and rugs. The company is now based at Hillington, on the outskirts of Glasgow.

The latest accounts of Behar Carpets show total directors’ remuneration, including pension contributions, fell from £301,994 in 2009 to £223,142 in 2010. The accounts list three directors, Mr Redman, Mr Slater, and finance director Bill Bain.

The remuneration of the highest-paid director fell from £142,824 to £85,297.

Mr Redman said: “We are not taking money out of the business. We are looking to see this business move forward. If our staff are having a pay freeze, we can’t have our nose in the trough. The job is: get to profitability.

“If you get something to a point of robust profitability, you can get a reward for that. If you don’t get there, you shouldn’t be taking the reward. Maybe some politicians should apply that, or some people in some other businesses.”

He added: “Everybody has got to pull their belt in. It is not a rule for one and a rule for others. It is a rule across the board.”

Mr Redman emphasised Behar had no plans to reduce its workforce of about 80 any further, and highlighted his determination to ensure the job security of staff, many of whom had worked for the company for decades.

He said: “I have got a lot of people who have worked for me for many years. I am talking tens of years. Their security is paramount to me, which is why you have seen a reduction in what the directors have.”

Touching on the economic downturn which began in 2008, he added: “We are now exactly where we need to be. There is no (staff) reductions...We went through all of that two to three years ago when all of this nonsense started.. Fundamentally, we are robust. That is important. The costs are under control.”

The ultimate holding company, Behar Rugs & Flooring, reduced its operating losses from £348,462 in 2009 to £225,659 last year. It bears some operating expenses not included in the accounts of Behar Carpets.

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