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The Works sees opportunity in tough retail climate as it expands online and on the High Street

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Art and craft retailer The Works has logged growth in 2019, as it continues to store expansion plans and starts to reap rewards from its fledgling click and collect service. However, sales and profits are down on last year.

The retailer saw a profit of £2.3m on revenues of £217.5m in the 52 weeks to 29 April 2019. That compares to the previous year, which saw revenues of £192.1m, but managed to produce £2.6m in profit.

Like for like sales were up by 3% year on year, with positive growth across all channels, boosted by the Squishies Mega Trend, strong sales of the retailer’s summer ‘Out to Play’ range and another record Christmas where stores were transformed into Santa’s Giftshop.

A slowdown was seen in the final quarter, reflecting the impact of the widely reported economic and political uncertainty in the UK, held back what would have been an extremely successful year.

However, in the tough retail conditions, The Works sees opportunity, says Kevin Keaney CEO of The Works. “The UK retail industry has also gone through its own period of change in the last year. We’ve seen many of our high street neighbours shutting stores and consumers have been faced with economic and political uncertainty,” he says. “While not immune to this, I’m pleased to say that plc is trading through this challenging time well and we continue to support our customers by offering great value every day.”

This uncertain environment also presents opportunities, says Keaney. “ plc is extremely well-placed to capitalise on the growing trends within modern retailing: value, convenience and online. Customers love the variety and great value of our products, which are available through online delivery, Click & Collect and in our growing network of stores. The favourable property market also means we are able to open new stores in areas that have been inaccessible to us in the past.”

With this in mind, the retailer is looking to grow its online presence, not simply as a different channel for customers, it claims, but as an integrated part of the physical shopping experience.

“The two channels are complementary and enable us to offer a fantastic Click & Collect service, which I’m proud to say remains our fastest growing channel and resulted in half a million customers visiting our stores to collect their order last year,” says Keaney.

He continues: “This year, we have made good enhancements to our web functionality, supporting the growing number of customers attracted online and improving the conversion rates of these customers. In Summer 2018, we extended the seasonal offering in store by creating the online ‘Holiday Shop’. This was very well-received and led to the launch of the new ‘Christmas Shop’ in 2018.”

The retailer also launched an eCommerce trading site in the Republic of Ireland during the year.

On the High Street, The Works is looking to continue its expansion, despite the tough UK retail environment, and is looking to expand its click and collect offering.

“Opening new stores remains our biggest driver of growth and we have taken advantage of the favourable property market by opening a net 50 new stores in the year,” says Keaney. “We delivered good like-for-like sales across all channels, as our continued focus on product newness and our nimble buying strategy enabled us to anticipate customer demand for current trends and seasonal ranges.”

He concludes: “Our solid performance was also driven by our multi-channel proposition, which offers customers even more flexibility and convenience in how they shop. We are particularly pleased with the performance of our Click & Collect service, which remains our fastest growing channel and resulted in half a million additional customer visits to our stores.”

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