I am pleased that the Group, as well as all of our individual brands, were able to record like-for-like sales growth during the Christmas trading period.
The retail market remains an extremely challenging one evidenced by several corporate failures over the last 12 months and is likely to be reflected in trading results across our sector.
It has recently been reported in the press that the Treasury have turned their attention to the tidal waves impacting retail, particularly on our high streets. I would normally welcome this, however, I do wonder whether they are able to see beyond personal interests and conflicts to develop a more level playing field and improved job security for the vast number of people employed locally serving customers in our communities. Will there be a ‘change of tide’? I doubt it. When I see ministers doing personal PR pieces, in the Sunday Press over the Christmas break, comparing their task to that of King Canute to make any meaningful difference to the horrific effects of the dramatic change in the retail landscape… I would say to them “No, Minister you just need to do your job and it's as clear as the nose on your face that serious tax reforms are the answer for the greater good of the Country and the people you purport to serve!” The handling of Brexit, with the disruption and uncertainty caused on one of the most important decisions in recent history gives me little confidence in our government implementing any meaningful change, in the short to medium term.
With time, retailers will and are striving to innovate, taking challenges in their ‘stride’, however, this will be more difficult if we continue to experience the political incompetence and arrogance that has become part of all our daily personal and business lives. The neglect from distracted politicians will ensure that the outlook will remain bleak. I would expect other retailers without the financial strength that we have to come under further pressure as the burden on them is set to increase, once again, next year. I’m afraid to say that I fail to see any signs that we will see a “Strong and Stable” approach to business in the near future.
Our businesses have responded to the challenges presented in different ways. Ryman fared best in store, delivering credible like-for-like sales of 2.5%. This was achieved by strong availability in its core ranges, as well as developing its gifting proposition and services in store like DHL and Western Union. The London Graphic Centre in Covent Garden, acquired by Ryman in October 2016, recorded growth of 2.4% in its second Christmas under the Group’s ownership.
Robert Dyas and Boux Avenue performed more strongly online with growth of 36.7% and 21.4%, respectively. Robert Dyas has successfully developed its ranges and was able to build on growth delivered online earlier in the year. Boux Avenue was probably in the most challenging of markets with discounting a key feature for many fashion retailers. Footfall to key shopping centres has been disappointing, meaning competition amongst brands for customer spend was fierce. Whilst Ryman and Robert Dyas were able to deliver margins ahead of last year, which is very encouraging, this was a challenge for Boux Avenue.
Black Friday has become a permanent fixture during peak trading and perhaps takes the edge away from the Christmas peak as we knew it. All of our brands ran offers through the week, as it has now become, leading up to Black Friday. We are pleased with the response we received from our customers. We have invested significantly in our infrastructure over the last 12 months or so, in particular in building a new warehouse for Boux Avenue as well as a Group Customer Services department to deal with the increased demands in this area. We have planned and invested for our e-commerce businesses to continue to grow across the board.
It was also great to see a new Group initiative of a joint Robert Dyas and Ryman store launched last summer in Bexleyheath, enjoying its first Christmas as such, come in as one of our top performing stores in the period. This success has resulted in us now actively searching for further suitably sited stores to repeat this format.
Despite my frustrations with the environment for doing business, I remain committed to all of our brands and will continue to invest in these as well as look for opportunities to extend the Group as appropriate. That been said, the approach will be a cautious one due to the lack of confidence I have in our current political environment and economic policy, which prioritise power over fixing structural problems, leaving our economy in jeopardy.
Celebrating 125 years, like-for-like growth was 2% in store and 16.9% non-store, giving total like for like sales of 3.4%.
Underlying EBITDA £7.5m, against £8.2m for the prior year, considered a good performance. Slight reduction in profits due to unavoidable increased costs of doing business, as well as maintaining investment in infrastructure and colleagues. Sales in line with previous year at £128m.
New stores including relocations opened in the year reported and since include Liverpool, Kings Road, Wimbledon, New Oxford Street, Grays Inn Road, Great Portland Street and Aston University.
First joint store opened with Robert Dyas in Bexleyheath, seeing both heritage brands under one roof, proving to be very successful, now giving rise to the identification of further openings.
Growth in new product categories as well as services like DHL and Western Union.
Growth delivered in our B2B proposition with Ryman and Theo Paphitis supporting small businesses and young entrepreneurs, including sponsorship of initiatives such as #SBS (Small Business Sunday) and the National Enterprise Challenge.
Strong balance sheet with net assets of £56m.
Trading in current year ahead of last year in both sales and profit.
Like-for-like growth of 2.7%, assisted by exceptional performance in e-commerce with growth of 45.7%. This has continued into the current year.
Strong click-and-collect take up from customers, reaching over 50% of orders with option to collect from Robert Dyas and Ryman stores nationwide.
Investment in technology and infrastructure continues to support growth. Since acquiring the business in 2012, investment in new warehouse and systems, website and recent relocation of offices to Wimbledon. Further investment to increase warehouse automation given demands from strong e-commerce growth through the summer and continuing into Christmas peak this year.v
New store opened in Bromley driven by demand in the town for click-and-collect to Ryman store.
Joint store launched with Ryman in Bexleyheath. Both brands under one roof well received by customers and trading ahead of expectations. Further new stores being considered as well as joint stores with Ryman.
EBITDA £0.5m against £2.4m for the prior year, which included 53 weeks of trading. Turnover was £123.9m, £0.5m ahead of previous year. Decline in profit partly impacted by one less week of trading, fixed costs as well as investment made in infrastructure to support growth plans.
Requirements funded through company and Group’s own resources.
Trading in current year ahead of last year in both sales and profit.
Boux Avenue Limited
Strong online growth of 19%, sees share of online business to total sales (stores and e-commerce) increase from 23.9% to 29.3% in the year. This is in line with the original business plan to open 25-30 stores and driving further growth through online sales. The 30th and final store of our business plan opened at the Victoria Centre, Nottingham in November 2018. In the financial year reported the 29th store was opened in Oxford. The share of online sales to total sales has increased further in the current year and is expected to move towards 50% in the next 3 years. During the recent peak Christmas trading period, share of online sales reached 42.8%.
The brand has developed a customer base of over 800,000 active customers signed up both in store and online. Investment made during the year in a Customer Relationship Management tool enabling marketing campaigns tailored to the individual needs and preferences of customers, has improved conversion and spend.
A challenging fashion retail market contributed to negative like-for-like sales for the first time since the brand launched in 2011, despite the online sales growth of 19%. Footfall to key shopping centre locations was weaker than seen in previous years, coupled with poor management of our supply chain contributed to this. A promotional market and currency weakness resulted in lower margins.
Given the Group and board’s commitment to the business, as well as the continued investment made, the decision was made and has now been implemented to considerably strengthen the management team to address issues and drive growth in the brand. This has resulted in the appointment of Michael Kerr as the brand’s first CEO, who was previously at Marks & Spencer for over 30 years and Zoe Price-Smith who joins as Design and Product Director from Hunkemöller, prior to that at Fat Face. Growth is expected to come from e-commerce, other new channels and new product categories being developed under the Boux Avenue brand.
Our plans for the Brand remain ambitious and are exciting, with e-commerce becoming increasingly important. We have also strengthened in this area with the appointment earlier in the year of Verity Till as E-commerce Director. Verity joined Boux Avenue from New Look and has made an immediate impact improving the website implemented last year.
Other major investment has been made in our infrastructure to include a new 75,000 sq ft warehouse at a cost of over £3m to support the growth planned.
New sales channels include wholesaling into asos.com , very.co.uk , next.co.uk , zalando.com and nordstrom.com.
The decline in store sales, where costs are of a fixed nature, including rent, rates and service charges, coupled with continued investment outlined resulted in EBITDA loss of £8.4m on sales of £47.4m. Whilst a disappointing result, being the first set back since starting the business in 2011, it’s not unusual in a business with a short history, particularly in fashion retailing. We remain fully committed to the brand, as demonstrated by the investment we are continuing to make.
Investment continues to be funded by group’s own resources; free from external debt.
We are confident that the strengthening of our management team together with the infrastructure put in place, will take the brand to its next stage of development. It is well placed to meet the shift in customer requirements as a truly multi-channel retailer and brand.
For further information please contact:
Jess Littlewood Group Head of PR, Theo Paphitis Retail Group