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Seasalt sees customer demand shift online as stores are disrupted by Covid-19

Image courtesy of Seasalt

Seasalt says ecommerce now accounts for 67% of its sales – and that it expects online to remain the dominant channel in its business even once its stores have reopened from lockdown.

The retailer, ranked Top100 in RXUK Top500 research, says in a trading update today that online orders almost doubled over Christmas. In the five weeks to January 2, overall sales were up by 17% compared to the same time last year – even though store sales fell by 44% – as ecommerce grew by 95%. International sales grew by 20%. 

Seasalt says that it expects store sales in the year to January 30 2021 to be about 57% lower than they were in the year to February 1 2020. It is talking to its landlords about rents, since the drop in store sales has had an impact on store profitability. But it expects that online sales will be up by about 72%, year-on-year, with the result that overall sales will be about 9% down on the previous year. 

Seasalt, which marks its 40th anniversary this year, sells online via its own website and via Zalando and eBay. It says that while its shops have been severely disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, it has benefited in its current financial year as customers both worked from home and bought online. Sales of women’s trousers, slippers and socks more than doubled. Customers, it says, responded to its relaxed style of clothing and to a mixture of brand content, Cornwall-inspired activities and positive messaging. During the last year, it launched a system of customer appointments, held both online and, when permitted, in-store. 

Seasalt chief executive Paul Hayes says: “Staying close to our customers, being able to understand their needs and never forgetting our Cornish roots has helped us deliver this strong performance and allowed us to adapt at pace during the pandemic.

“We had started our digital transformation well before the first lockdown, but the events of the past year have accelerated all our plans. We now make approximately two-thirds of our sales online and while our stores remain a vital and constantly-evolving part of the business, we expect a much higher percentage of sales to be digital from now on.

“As we begin our 40th anniversary year, we have taken the steps necessary to prepare Seasalt for the challenges ahead and we are well positioned for continued success as the economy recovers.”

The retailer is today publishing its results for the year to February 1 2020, in which it turned over £75.4m, 15% more than the previous year, and the 11th consecutive year of sales growing by at least that proportion. Pre-tax profits came in at £0.7m.

Seasalt chief financial officer Malcolm Macdonald says: “Momentum from a strong set of financial results last year carried on into the new financial year and through Christmas. By being available to customers where and when hey want to shop, Seasalt has been able to continue to trade successfully through a period of enormous uncertainty in the retail sector.”

Don Chadwick opened the first Seasalt shop in Penzance, Cornwall, in 1981. Today the retailer sells through 71 shops in the UK and Ireland, online in 156 countries via its own website and the Zalando and eBay marketplaces, and through wholesale partners. It continues to be owned by the Chadwick family. 

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