Whistles improves but challenges remain, e-tail is strong
Whistles significantly improved its performance in the year to April 1 as its online sales rose strongly and helped to counter the closure of some of its physical stores.
The mid-market UK retailer said in its latest accounts that online sales rose by 35% and that they helped push overall turnover up by a healthy 18% to reach £68.9 million.
However, the rise was not in reality as good as it looked. The company has changed its year-end date and that meant the latest period covered 62 weeks while the prior-year period covered only 52 weeks. In the previous year, the company had reported only a 1.5% sales rise on a straight 52-week comparison.
Back with the latest ‘year’, the firm said that its pre-tax loss was £3.8 million for the longer period and while those extra 10 weeks would have helped here, it’s undeniable that it saw an improvement compared to a pre-tax loss of £5.8 million in the prior 52-week period.
No surprise after its e-tail surge that among its plans for the year ahead are greater investment in its web business.
Whistles has been through a number of incarnations in its history having started as a single high-end store in London stocking designer labels and later becoming an own-brand specialist.
Under former Topshop supremo Jane Shepherdson, it became known for its contemporary cool, but Shepherdson left in 2016 after the chain was acquired by The Foschini Group.
Now part of a business that also includes Hobbs and Phase Eight, it has struggled to ignite profitable sales growth in recent periods, despite operating 44 stores and being available in a number of high end department stores in the US, UK and Asia. But with Foschini having deep pockets and a commitment to growth, these latest results suggest that Whistles could now be at a turning point.
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