Clarks recovers in latest year as UK, Europe and US sales improve
The latest financial year was a period of “recovery and repositioning” for British footwear brand Clarks, as it rebuilt its business under new owners and swung back to a profit following losses in the previous year.
C&J Clark (No1) Limited has filed its accounts for the 52 weeks to the end of January, and said that while it was still being impeded by the ongoing impacts of the pandemic — especially on the global supply chain — turnover still grew.
It rose to £920.3 million from £775 million a year earlier and profitability "turned around significantly" with profit before interest and tax of £59.6 million, compared to a loss of £162.6 million in the previous year. Net profit was £55.4 million, up from a loss of £180.2 million in the previous year.
It achieved this through the combination of its increased turnover, margin improvements as it reduced discounting, a beneficial change in the product and channel mix, a reduction in overhead costs, and a reduction in one-off costs.
The investment by parent company LionRock was completed in February 2021, with it becoming the controlling shareholder, owning 51% of the company. Its investment also provided the business with £100 million of additional liquidity.
Looking at the year’s performance in more detail, the company said that the Americas and the UK/Republic of Ireland markets saw steady recovery with consumer demand growing, and the strongest recovery being in direct-to-consumer channels.
In fact, UK and Ireland turnover rose 20.6% at constant exchange rates as the high street recovered from the impact of lockdowns. However, footfall remained an issue as consumers stayed cautious.
Turnover in the Americas increased 32.3% at constant exchange rates with strong performances across wholesale, outlet and full-price stores and a significant increase in consumer demand.
In EMEA, turnover rose 16.4%, although the company saw a difficult trading environment in some areas, especially in the first half due to local lockdowns.
The performance across Asia Pacific varied with an overall positive result of 4.1% higher turnover. Greater China felt the impact of a general e-commerce decline in the second half and markets across India and Southeast Asia were also impacted during the half by new Covid variants.
The plan is now to return turnover to its pre-pandemic levels over the next three years under new CEO Jonathan Ram who joined in April.
The company said it's continuing its recovery from the pandemic, although the extra inflationary pressure caused by the war in Ukraine could impact consumer demand and global costs. But this is being monitored, closely and mitigating action is being considered.
Yet it remains confident in its overall five-pillar strategy.
This includes targeting China, which currently accounts for less than 10% of turnover, while its competitors are in the 20%-30% range.
It also said that reinstating brand, demand and desire in its domestic UK market is “mission-critical” and will be achieved through improvements to the store estate, product evolution, and marketing to win over new consumers and recover lost ones.
It also aims to deepen its market strength in the US by rebalancing the product and category offer, as well as targeting new business across all channels and boosting its digital offer.
The fourth pillar is to reinvigorate its brand and products, and the fifth is to accelerate digital penetration overall, and make it a higher percentage of its global turnover. As those other brand pillars suggest, the focus here will be on the key markets of the UK, US and China.
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