The White Company has good year, despite pandemic challenges
The White Company’s holding company has filed its results for the year to the end of last July and said that turnover rose 21% year-on-year to £273.1 million.
Meanwhile, operating profit was up a massive 122% to reach £31.2 million and net profit for the period rose to £26 million from £10.5 million.
The company said that the year was often dominated by the disruption and operational challenges created by the ongoing pandemic, but the period turned out to be better than might have been expected.
It had seen initial negative impacts from the pandemic towards the end of the previous financial year and had been cautious in its outlook for the 12 months ahead.
“However, with large numbers of consumers having to work from home, and with travel and most of the leisure activities prohibited for large periods of time, retail and in particular home-related retail, started to see a much greater share of disposable income than had previously been the case,” it said.
It benefited from the fact that a large portion of its product ranges sit within the home and gifting categories and sales in most of its home categories – along with nightwear and loungewear – all started to accelerate, with the levels of growth largely sustained throughout the year.
On the downside however, one area that suffered was daywear as consumers had less opportunity to go out or travel.
But overall, it was fortunate that at the points in time when stores were unable to open, a large portion of its lost physical trade migrated online and its webstore saw much greater volumes than in previous years.
Additionally, once its stores were able to reopen their performance was stronger than the company had expected and only slightly down on the pre-Covid levels.
But of course, while demand stayed fairly buoyant, fulfilling the demand was challenging. The biggest challenge came during its peak trading period as stores had to close in early November 2020, just before the start of a major promotional week. That late 2020 lockdown meant it was unable to maximise the trading potential of the crucial Christmas period, while it also incurred higher operational costs.
While most of its trade still comes from UK customers, in the last year it also saw strong online growth in the US and in its other international markets, although trading in the EU faced much higher costs as a result of Brexit.
As mentioned, despite all the challenges, the company managed to increase its sales during the year and it also saw a "much-reduced" need for discounting during sale periods. This combined with stronger performance in its higher-margin product categories meant that sales growth was achieved with an improved margin, which is always good news.
The company didn't make any changes to its store portfolio during the year, despite the fact that many businesses involved in style-related retail launched store closure programmes as a result of the pandemic. However, it did close its remaining store in the US, which had been loss-making since it opened.
It ended the year with 50 stores and 10 concessions in the UK and two shops in Ireland, alongside its UK, US and Europe websites.
It also continued to invest in its distribution centre, and digital and other technology projects during the year that it said will help to unlock further potential in the business. And it launched a Little White Company product offer on the Next website with the initial reaction being “very positive”.
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