Mountain Warehouse said that its online sales grew by 50.6% during its 20th anniversary year, while the retailer continued an unbroken record of sales growth – this time by 30.8% to £184.8m, from £141.4m in 2016.
Some 25% of sales were made online during the year to the end of February, while 25% were made in international markets.
Like-for-like sales, which strip out the effect of store openings and closures, grew by 16.5%, and pre-tax profits of £19.8m were 22% up on last time.
By the end of the year the retailer had 262 shops, including more than 60 in six overseas markets. The business, a Top250 retailer in IRUK Top500 research, was founded in 1997 with a single shop in Swindon. Now it’s planning to open 40 new stores in the coming years, of which around half will be overseas.
Founder and chief executive Mark Neale said: “We started with a single shop in 1997 and 10 years later in 2007 we had around 40 stores with sales of about £20m. My wife used to say that it took us 10 years to become an overnight success!
“The downturn in 2008 allowed us to start growing really quickly when stores became easier to find and customers were looking for fantastic value. We passed 100 stores in 2010 and have been on a steep climb since then with online and international playing a bigger and bigger part in the business.”
Neale sees scope to have more than 300 UK stores eventually, and that the international business will become as large as the UK business. Last year iI=nternational sales doubled to account for 25% of revenue last year, up from 20% in the previous 12 months, helped by new stores in North America.
The company is now exploring the possibility of opening stores in Czech Republic to build on its success in Poland where it has opened three more stores in recent weeks, taking the total to 15. It is also looking for more sites in Germany.
Neale says the Mountain Warehouse approach to growing the business over 20 years has always been to try new things.
“If they work we push them as fast as we can but if they’re not so successful we don’t bash our heads against the wall,” he said. “My view is, if some things aren’t failing you’re probably not being ambitious enough, not exploring enough new possibilities.”
In recent years, part of the focus has been on weatherproofing the business by widening the product range to include running and cycling kit and more summer clothes, particularly for children. This includes a collaboration with TV explorer Steve Backshall, who helped design a range of shorts, T-shirts and backpacks featuring sharks, giraffes, wolves and other wildlife designs.
In November 2015, the company launched a ‘sporty sister brand’ Zakti, to enter the rapidly-growing ‘athleisure’ market. Zakti is currently collaborating with former Pussycat Doll Kimberley Wyatt to produce a range of activewear which the retailer says is proving hugely popular.
This year’s store opening programme will include at least two more branches for Zakti, including one in Swindon, where the Mountain Warehouse journey began.