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Whistles posts sales growth after year of expansion across channels

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Whistles has reported rising sales after a year in which it expanded both its store network and its online sales. 

The fashion retailer, ranked Top250 in IRUK Top500 research, turned over £73.4m in the year to March 29, with sales up by 7.1% compared to the previous year. Growth, it said, came as a result of new store and concession openings as well as online – which accounted for 38.2% of sales in the year. Earnings before interest, tax and asset write downs came in at £5.4m, up from £4.5m a year earlier, but pre-tax profits of £2.4m were down on the £2.6m reported last time.

During the year, the retailer opened a net four new stores, and 18 new concessions, including its first in the United States. By the end of the year, Whistles operated in 51 standalone stores in the UK and 106 concessions in department stores, as well as eight online websites. 

Commenting, Pippa Stephens, retail analyst at data and analytics company GlobalData, said the retailer had continued to defy high street gloom during the year. But, she added: “Whistles must be careful that its regular promotions, such as its 30% Black Friday discount, do not devalue its full price proposition and negatively affect shoppers’ brand perceptions. 

“The retailer announced in February 2019 that it was axing its menswear offer, making its AW18 collection its last, highlighting its failure to gain traction among male shoppers. With its sole focus now on womenswear, Whistles must better promote its ranges on social media with more frequent and engaging posts, and increase its use of influencer marketing to drive top of mind appeal.”

Stephens said that Whistles should also reduce its reliance on House of Fraser and strengthen its partnerships with other premium department stores such as John Lewis and Selfridges, and online platforms such as Asos and Next. 

“Though its online proposition is already strong, with penetration increasing by 2.1ppts to 38.2% during FY2018/19, it must continue to develop its website to ensure that its own sales are not cannibalised by third-party distributors,” she said. “Although it compellingly offers free standard delivery on all orders, its digital proposition could be further improved via faster fulfilment, the introduction of same day delivery to compete with rival Reiss, and a delivery saver scheme to encourage loyalty.’’

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