Card & gifts retailer Clintons today said that “flattening the peaks of cyclical working requirements” will allow the group to invest further in its store portfolio as it continues its realignment strategy in the face of a difficult retail climate.
A statement from the business indicated that group like-for-like sales in the 16 weeks to November 20th 2011 were down 2.4 per cent year-on-year, with trading at the Clintons-branded stores declining 2.6 per cent and sales at its Birthdays fascia dropping 1.4 per cent.
Having reported a loss of £10.7 million for the last financial year, the retailer has recently renewed its £55 million borrowing facilities and started a modernisation process that has involved the opening of new look stores, the closure of others and a number of relocations.
Since the beginning of the business’ financial year on August 1st, the group has unveiled two outlets in retail parks and closed 24, leaving a total of 775 stores across both brands in the UK.
More investment in its properties is set to be made if the business can control costs further, with peak borrowings this year at £42.7 million which was £10.4 million down on last year’s peak level, “reflecting the on-going progress of cash management and controls”.
Today’s statement added: “During the last month we took the decision to convert seasonal Halloween stock to cash through a price-led promotion strategy which was successful albeit at a reduced margin.
“We will explore further opportunities to replicate this approach in the post-Christmas sales period to minimise seasonal carry forward stock levels.”
The coming weeks are the most important in Clintons’ calendar, and its success or lack of it over the Christmas period is likely to largely dictate the company’s strategy in the 12 months ahead.
At this time last year the business said it was looking forward to reporting its Christmas performance, but strikingly there were no such signs of confidence in today’s statement.
It read: “The group will report on the important Christmas trading period on January 5th 2012 coinciding with its AGM but remains mindful of the challenging retail environment and cautious consumer sentiment.”