Fenwick losses rise as lockdowns hit hard
Higher-end department store group Fenwick was hit particularly hard during the pandemic, its latest set of results to the end of January show. While stores were shut during lockdowns, the retailer didn’t have the luxury of an online platform to soften the sales blow, meaning the business suffered more than some of its peers.
Pre-tax losses rose to £112 million from £47 million in 2019 after the chain was forced to close stores and wrote down their value as footfall fell silent, reducing their values to £376 million. Sales plummeted to £140.5 million from £323.7 million, privately-owned Fenwick told the Times newspaper Tuesday.
The department store chain was forced to temporarily close its nine department stores during the lockdowns, including its flagship store on London’s Bond Street.
Chief executive John Edgar, who was brought in last year by the chain’s owners, said part of Fenwick’s difficulty in weathering the pandemic was that its online business had been “fledgling and tiny” and had been shut down entirely at the start of the crisis as the previous management cut operations to save costs, which included making 300 staff redundant.
Fenwick, meanwhile, claimed £9 million in furlough support and £8.7 million in business rates relief to offset some of the damage from the pandemic. Over the period, the retailer’s pension deficit increased by £7 million to £36 million.
But Edgar, who has also been CFO at both Selfridges and Harrods, said its digital ambitions were now key to continuing growth and that around 80% of Fenwick’s ranges were now sold online.
He wants its e-commerce business to represent a fifth of group revenues, noting department stores could offer ranges as broad as online rivals. They “are the original marketplaces”, he said.
But he also noted that its core store ops continue to drive the business. While the Bond Street store has suffered a slump in footfall because of a lack of office workers and tourists post lockdowns, Fenwick’s other stores have benefited from more people staying local. “We’re often the only show in town, particularly if you want anything in luxury,” Edgar said.
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