Beales had "creditable" Christmas, plans website relaunch
With much of the media focus on large department store chains’ performances at Christmas, it can be easy to forget that there are many medium and small retail businesses in the UK and one of them has also reported on its Christmas trading.
Tony Brown, CEO of 21-store department stores chain Beales, said the company turned in a respectable performance over the festive period (the four weeks up to the New Year) with sales rising 3% in total. However, given that inflation is running close to that level and that Brown warned of the tough environment on the high street, the performance was far-from-stellar.
Brown said: “To be 3% up is a creditable performance but it’s on the back of a very challenging environment. There’s a lot of uncertainty on Brexit and the economy and so on, which we just have to keep on breaking through."
But at least the Christmas figures helped to wipe out the memory of the difficult summer the company had endured, which came despite some of its stores being in coastal resorts that would have been expected to outperform in an unusually hot summer.
Brown said that in December, “fashion was still very soft [but] housewares, linens and all those sorts of areas were very strong along with toys and gifts.” The bags category also did well, as did small electrical appliances, which includes beauty appliances.
The company also said trading at individual stores varied. For instance, Poole and Bournemouth, two locations that are relatively close to each other, turned in very different figures. Poole was “excellent” and didn’t suffer from nearby roadworks as its location in an upgraded shopping centre helped it. But Bournemouth did suffer from roadworks disruption and was among the worst-performing stores.
Its sales figures relate only to its physical stores with its website still being in its early days. Beales had closed its transactional website under previous management and after reopening it has admitted that it will take a while to make an impact. E-sales are growing but are still only a tiny percentage of total turnover and Brown said the company is “still two years away from a good online presence.”
Next month, the company is planning to merge the Beales webstore with that of the Palmers business that it acquired with Brown also praising the Palmers site and saying it would be the model for the new merged site.
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