// River Island warns of the impact of the second national lockdown
// It said the lockdown presents a “challenging and disruptive time” for retailers
River Island has warned of the impact of the second lockdown in England on its trading as it enters the Golden Quarter.
The fashion retailer witnessed a 10 per cent rise in operating profits for the year to 28 December 2019.
Operating profits before one-off charges and “onerous leases” increased to £42 million from £38 million in 2018.
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Meanwhile, turnover was at £880 million during the period after the closure of stores in the Benelux region, falling from £920 million in 2018.
“The latest lockdown comes at the most challenging and disruptive time for retailers, when we would normally expect to deliver our peak trading, and the closure of physical stores will, of course, have an impact on our performance,” River Island chief executive Will Kernan said.
“We began 2020 with momentum in both operational change and business performance. Our focus and investment in digital over recent years saw us engage and welcome more new customers to our online channels with positive responses to improved product ranges.
“While the business was robust when the pandemic struck, we acted quickly and decisively to put ourselves in the strongest possible footing to manage through the crisis.
“The complete closure of our physical stores for 13 weeks created a significant financial impact, but online sales performed well as we welcomed new and existing store customers to our digital channels.
“Today we are reporting a resilient performance during the year under review, despite a challenging retail environment, which has been particularly tough for our physical stores.
“Since then, the world has changed beyond recognition and the outlook is uncertain. While we remain necessarily cautious, our actions over the past 18 months put us in the strongest possible position.
“Today’s retail environment is drastically different to that of 2019, but even before Covid-19, shopping habits and the role of stores were changing quickly.
“As a result, we had already made important changes to ensure that River Island could hold its own in the face of these challenges.
“Through these efforts, we maintained stable sales during 2019 and saw continued growth in our online and wholesale channels.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently announced a second lockdown for England, starting on Thursday and lasting four weeks.
This overlaps with the 17-day firebreak lockdown currently happening in Wales, while Scotland and Northern Ireland continue have their own restrictions in place.