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Hobbycraft sees fast online growth as millennials take up new hobbies in lockdown

Image courtesy of Hobbycraft

Hobbycraft saw its online sales double during a year of pandemic and store lockdowns that also caused total sales to fall. But chief executive Dominic Jordan says the retailer has turned in “a robust set of results following what was one of the most challenging years the retail industry has ever known.”

During the year 1.3m new customers, many of whom are millennials, bought from the retailer as they took up new hobbies or rediscovered old ones. 

Jordan, Hobbycraft chief executive, says: “Our performance is testament to our incredible colleagues and the truly cohesive multichannel model we have built over recent years, which ensures we satisfy the needs of craft enthusiasts however they wish to shop with us. 

“With our stores closed for almost half of FY21 due to the pandemic, our exceptional ecommerce growth demonstrated that our customers continued to find ways to be creative in lockdown, with sewing, macramé and wreath-making proving particularly popular. Our kids’ arts and craft range also saw strong growth as parents turned to creative projects whilst home schooling.”

The arts and crafts equipment retailer this week reported total revenue of £176.9m in the 53 weeks to February 21, down 8.6% on the previous year. Online sales grew by 151.8%, although in-store sales fell by £53.3m as a result of repeated lockdowns. When stores were open, click and collect sales drove footfall to them. Adjusted earnings of £13.8m were 7.2% down on the previous year. 

Since stores reopened, like-for-like sales have grown by 15.3% and online sales are trading at 96.1%, both compared to the same, pre-pandemic, period in 2019. Sales have grown particularly strongly in the wedding category (+26.8%). 

Looking ahead, the retailer now plans to invest further in the online customer experience by launching a new customer website alongside a platform for online workshops that customers can join in. At the same time it plans in-store experiences through demos and workshops hosted by in-house ‘artisans’, whose numbers are set to grow from 31 to 100 by the end of the 2022 full year. It also plans to open seven new stores. 

Jordan says the strong performance compared to two years ago “underlines the strength and breadth of our offer as we trade positively in stores and sustain the strong ecommerce growth we generated in lockdown. As the UK’s largest arts and craft retailer, we look forward to continuing our growth plans in FY22 by further enhancing our product range and online proposition, opening new stores and hiring new retail colleagues whilst we capture market share in the UK’s rapidly growing craft sector.”

During the year the Hobbycraft Club grew to more than 5.2m members as the retailer deployed digital marketing and used Facebook Live and YouTube demos to talk to new and existing customers. It also helped customers with creative projects through an online ideas hub. The categories that grew fastest over the year included acrylic paint (+535%), sewing (+434%), knitting yarn (+367%) and canvas (+260%). 

The retailer, ranked Top150 in RXUK Top500 research, opened three new stores during the year, in Colchester, Taunton and King’s Lynn – and neither closed stores nor made redundancies, while topping up furloughed staff to full pay throughout, thanks to government support. 

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