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Strong online demand for homewares and gifts helps The White Company make up for pandemic store closures

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The White Company today said strong online demand helped it mitigate sales lost as its stores closed for lockdown in its latest full financial year.

The clothing-to-homewares retailer, ranked Top50 in RXUK Top500 research, says it saw strong sales in both its stores and digital channels for the first seven months of the year – until the Covid-19 lockdown last March. It continued to trade online throughout the lockdown and says that “given the strength of consumer demand through our digital channel, we were able to mitigate a large portion of the lost trade from the stores. This meant that our overall sales in the final five months of the year saw only a slight decline.”

The update came as The White Company reported group turnover of £226.3m in the year to April 1 2020. That’s 4% up the previous 52 weeks — although its previous year was 70 weeks long. Group operating profit was also 4% up on the comparison year, at £14.1m. 

The retailer opened two new stores and two new concessions during that year, taking its total UK stores to 61, of which 11 are concessions. It also has two stores in Ireland and one in the US – after closing one shop in that market during the year, and trades online through UK, US and Euro websites while selling wholesale to Nordstrom in the US. 

Since the end of its financial year, the retailer says trading has been positive since August, with higher demand for its homewares and gifts, and it is cautiously optimistic for the future.

“The year has without doubt been extremely challenging with a global pandemic that created many business situations that none of us have ever experienced before,” says The White Company chief executive Mary Homer. “In light of this, I am very pleased with our results, both from a turnover and profit perspective.”

She adds: “Our strategy to make further strides with our international growth, digital transformation and IT infrastructure remains the same, and this is instrumental in ensuring we achieve future growth.

“Overall, as a business we are in a strong position – trade during this current year has been positive and we are cautiously optimistic, albeit we know there are many challenges ahead for the economy and therefore the retail sector.”

Commenting, Georgina Sreeves, retail analyst at data and analytics company GlobalData, says: “The White Company’s fortunes are largely owed to its strong online proposition; the retailer claims that unprecedented online demand offset a large proportion of lost store sales during the final five months of the financial year.”

She adds: “Plans to expand internationally should begin online or through wholesale agreements with large retailers to keep operational costs low and to gauge demand, particularly as the pandemic situation remains volatile.”

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