The Works’ online sales more than doubled over the last year – although store closures mean overall sales are 19% down
The Works’ ecommerce sales more than doubled in the last year, helping it to compensate for months of full or partial store closures. But despite strong demand both online and, when open, in-store, its full-year sales fell by 19%.
The discount books, craft and children’s activities retailer, ranked Top100 retailer in RXUK Top500 research, today say in a pre-close trading update that online sales grew by 120.9% in the 53 weeks to May 2. Overall sales fell by 19% to £206.2m. The Works says it revised its internal profit forecasts when the start of lockdown 3.0 was announced, following on from a first half in which pre-tax losses came in at £4.3m - down from a loss of £8.5m a year earlier.
In this financial year, The Works’ shops were fully closed for 16 weeks, and at least 75% of its stores were closed for a further eight weeks – affecting much of the festive period. When those temporary store closures are excluded, store like-for-like sales grew by 6%.
The retailer says its sales show the value of its multichannel model and of its customers’ loyalty – and how much its range appeals to them. The retailer has invested to increase online capacity and in a new customer website during the year.
By the end of the year, The Works traded from 527 shops in the UK and Ireland, down from 532 shops a year earlier, and says that demand has been encouraging since its UK shops were able to reopen in mid-April - and online demand has reduced at the same time but remains ahead of pre-Covid-19 levels. Its Republic of Ireland shops are set to reopen on Monday.
Gavin Peck, chief executive of The Works, says: "Like many retailers, the last 12 months have been incredibly challenging for The Works, which has historically relied mainly on in- store sales. Our business was severely impacted by successive lockdowns and forced closures of our entire store estate.
"Despite this, the period has highlighted the resilience of the business and our ability to both adapt our offer and leverage our multi- channel model. Since we couldn’t control store closures we focused on the things we could, keeping tight control of costs, optimising our operations and vastly improving our online offering. As a result, our financial position remained strong, online growth exceeded our expectations, and when stores re-opened we saw customer demand returning quickly to pre-Covid levels.
"I am incredibly proud of our colleagues who have supported each other so brilliantly and the unique culture at The Works that has enabled us to withstand this difficult year and emerge quickly and optimistically as a stronger business. Although uncertainty remains, particularly around the shape of the consumer recovery, the board expects the early progress to continue and remains confident in the future prospects of the business."
Full-year results are currently scheduled to be reported on July 20.