Specialist retailer bucks sector trend with record Christmas trading

Kevin Keaney, CEO, The Works

Books, toys and stationery retailer The Works has bucked the sector trend by announcing improved Christmas trading results.

The company, based in the West Midlands and owned by private equity investor Endless, saw total like-for-like sales growth of 6.3% in the 12 weeks to Christmas Eve, a new record for the business.

The period also saw the company record its best ever day, week and month in terms of turnover – including a 10% hike from the Black Friday event.

Its successful multi-channel operation was evidenced by an online sales growth of 37% over the 12 weeks – accounting for 10% of the company’s total turnover during the period.

CEO Kevin Keaney said the business had benefited from ongoing expansion, which saw the company add 65 outlets to its UK store network during 2017 and relocate to a new headquarters and distribution hub in Hams Hall, outside Birmingham, effectively doubling the capacity of its previous base.

The extra distribution space also allowed the firm to upgrade its online sales offer and Mr Keaney said the growth in the click-and-collect market had been considerable.

“The performance marks a continuation of our success and the strong growth we achieved during 2017,” said Mr Keaney.
“We are also benefiting from having the right mix of products and prices, which is giving customers value for money.

“The growth in our online operation is also significant and the click-and-collect model is helping to drive footfall to our stores.”

He also said that despite the tough market, the firm – unlike many other retailers – had resisted making any pre-Christmas sales events.

“To deliver record sales both online and in-store in such a challenging economic environment and against strong comparatives from last year is an accomplishment we are extremely proud of,” added Mr Keaney.

He said the key now was to build on this strong platform and maintain growth.

The company opened 65 new outlets during 2017, as part of a £5.3m investment that created 600 jobs.

The company’s UK store network now stands at 430 but Mr Keaney said there was still plenty of room for growth.

“We believe there is headroom for 50 stores a year and we will be investing around £5m this year to ensure this can be accomplished,” he said.

The company’s retail strategy sees it operate in high street locations plus shopping centres, factory outlets and in-store concessions. Its innovative approach also sees it exploring new store formats.