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Dunelm says online orders now ‘significantly higher’ than before coronavirus

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Dunelm says its online orders are now “significantly higher” than those seen before the coronavirus outbreak.

The homewares retailer says it is now meeting a high level of customer demand through its internet operations after putting in place the health and safety measures that it needed in order to meet social distancing requirements. 

The retailer, ranked Elite in RXUK Top500 research, closed all of its 170 shops in response to government guidance in late March, and has furloughed most of its store staff. Initially it also closed its online operations. 

In a business update today Dunelm said it had taken time to assess how it could make its operations safe for staff and customers. “We used external specialists, including NHS professionals, to help us implement many changes across our operations and only when we were satisfied that the operations were safe and had received approval from Trading Standards, did we start to take orders again on,” it said.

“After a phased restart of our online business, we are now fully operational, with the exception of some two-man delivery products which we anticipate will begin next week once we finalise a safe and workable delivery solution. Since reopening, we have been able to satisfy a high level of online customer demand, with recent online order levels significantly higher than those seen prior to the onset of coronavirus.”

Customer emails and calls are answered by its contact centre staff working remotely. It is also now making changes to prepare its store operations for when they reopen. 

In addition, the retailer’s staff are working to help local communities, while Dunelm is making medical gowns for the NHS in its Leicester curtain manufacturing site. Emergency workers can also receive a 15% discount at its website.

Chief executive Nick Wilkinson has volunteered for a 90% pay cut for the three months to June, while the executive management team have taken a 20% pay cut and the chairman and non-executive board members are waiving their fee. 

Nick Wilkinson, Dunelm chief executive, said: “We remain focused on doing the right thing for our colleagues, customers and the communities where we operate, and I am pleased that we have safely re-opened our online operations. I am immensely grateful for the dedication and commitment of our colleagues and supplier partners who have demonstrated great agility and determination in a dynamic and unprecedented situation.

“Whilst many uncertainties remain, we have ensured that Dunelm and its many stakeholders will be well-supported through this difficult period and are confident that we will emerge from this crisis as a stronger business ready to return to sustainable and profitable growth.”

The retailer says that it has drawn down all of its existing financing facilities of £175m, and has confirmed that it would be eligible to access Bank of England funding under the Covid Corporate Financing Facility. Dunelm’s board says it is now confident it has access to enough cash, even if stores remain closed for six months. 

In December Dunelm completed its shift to a new digital platform, acquired through its Worldstores buyout, that it said would enable it to double its digital orders.

In first-half results, reported in February, Dunelm said that its online orders had grown by 33.2% in the first half of the year to £83.4m, while store sales of £485.2m were 2% ahead, adding up to total sales of £585m, up by 6% on last time. Just under a fifth (19.2%) of sales were multichannel. Pre-tax profits rose by 20% to £83.6m at the same time.

Image courtesy of Dunelm

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