Meet the Team - Jill Barrett interviews Head of Flooring Gary Songhurst

Posted on 23 February 2016

'Meet the Team' - Jill Barretts Weekly Blog

Hello! This week I thought it was high time I started to introduce the wonderful people that make up 'Team Barretts'. We finally got round to updating our gorgeous new website with staff photos and a bit of background, so please do have a look. To help you get to know us even better I'll be doing a short interview with everyone and sprinkle them throughout the year as part of our weekly blogs.

This week it's Gary Songhurst, Head of our thriving Flooring Department, which is actually the store's biggest department by revenue.


'Meet the Team' - Jill Barretts Weekly Blog, an interview with Head of Flooring Gary Songhurst

JB: What did you do before joining the Barretts of Woodbridge Flooring Department?
GS: I have been a carpet and flooring fitter 30 years working for most of the high street firms and smaller department stores. I also ran my own flooring shop for 5 of those years.

JB: Tell me more about your business
GS: It was between1987 and 1995, and was called Halesworth Carpet Centre. Although it was hard work, I managed to double the turnover in that period.

JB: Why did you decide to give your successful business up and move into carpet fitting?
GS: Family - I wanted to see my new-born son Glen grow up! As you well know, running your own business is very demanding with long hours, and you never really switch off. I'm the kind of person who always has to give 100%, so stepping back a bit from my business wasn't an option. So I decided the best thing to do was to re-prioritise my life and become a fitter, with much more regular hours. 

JB: And Glen is now a fitter, following in his father's footsteps?
GS: Yes, he worked for me initially but is now self-employed and based in Lowestoft. He regularly does work for Barretts, mainly in wood laminate and Luxury Vinyl Tiles.

JB: What changes have you made since you joined Barretts?
GS: They say a new brush sweeps clean, and that's exactly what I did! I thought a good clear-out and tidy up was in order and I'm pleased with how the department now looks.  I streamlined a lot of the internal processes too, so we can focus even more on our customers and their flooring needs. I set my colleague Dan Bruce up as an estimator which has worked really well, and John Robertson-Young has also recently joined to help us keep up with the ever growing demand - we're over 15% up on the year.

JB: Why do you think that is?
GS: I think there's generally more confidence around than last year, when the General Election was looming. I also think the whole store has stepped up in terms of how we create inspiring displays, and how we engage our customers and build the all important trust. Plus, you can't now miss the Barretts store in Woodbridge, with the whole building being decorated and clear signage, so perhaps people are noticing us a bit more and giving us a try. Looks like they are very happy with the experience when they do.

JB: Do you think the new ranges you've introduced have also contributed to your growth?
GS: Yes indeed. I wanted Barretts to appeal to all ages and price ranges, and whilst we want to keep the character of the department I felt we needed something new.  I brought in laminate flooring, new ranges of Luxury Vinyl Tiles, bleach cleanable carpets (yes, you can really clean this carpet with bleach), and a huge range of hand knotted rugs. Plus all the new ranges of twist pile and cable loop pile carpets from prestigious carpet weaver Axminster. It's very rare we can't meet a customer's requirements. 
All that combined with our growing contract work with local developers such as Foundation Properties with the Courthouse and Park Properties has ensured we've had the best year ever.

JB: What are people buying?
GS: A lot of very tight loop Berber carpets mainly in grey shades, and laminate flooring.  Both are very much in fashion at present. Laminate flooring also doesn't have the same issues as solid wood floors and provides a great background for a lovely rug. 

JB: What have been your highlights since joining Barretts?
GS: Working with a great crowd of people has been brilliant - it really is a pleasure working at Barretts. Carrying out every type of installation you can imagine is also a challenge, as well as being able to fulfil the whole service i.e. moving furniture, uplifting and removing old flooring, and having the time with people helping them choose their new flooring. 
The huge refurbishment at Paddy and Scotts coffee bar in Regents Street, London was also a real highlight. 

JB: What's the one thing you would change about Barretts?
GS: It would be nice to have more space to have even more carpet ranges, although
that might probably confuse people totally!

JB: What is your favourite product in Barretts?
GS: It's not even from my department, the Danalight 5 Tier Copper Lounge Lamp in our rug window

JB: Most obscure or bizarre thing you've been asked in Barretts of Woodbridge?
GS: How about to carpet the walls and ceiling of a market stall? Or to let the dog out when I leave the property, wait till he's been to toilet and let him back in? Then there was, 'Will the fitters take the wardrobe out of one property and take it to a neighbour's house?' The really bizarre thing was the answer to all of these was yes!

JB: Anything you'd like to be asked?
GS: Yes, ask me go to Iran and watch Persian rugs being made and spend a fortnight
there all expenses paid. I think it would be good for my wellbeing!

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