// Theo Paphitis’s stationery retailer has reported a loss of £8.5 million for the year ending March 2021
// The Dragon’s Den star has called on chancellor Rishi Sunak to overhaul business rates in the face of struggling instore sales
Theo Paphitis’s stationery retailer Ryman has reported a loss for the first time in 25 years, with earnings tumbling to a loss of £8.5 million, compared with a £7.8 million profit in the previous year.
The high street chain was impacted by weaker student, business and city centre trade, but has said it expects to return to profitability in 2022, following the easing of restrictions last year.
The news was revealed as the Dragon’s Den star hailed wider progress across the rest of his retail operation during the financial year ending 31 March 2021.
Theo Paphitis Retail Group, which also includes the Robert Dyas and Boux Avenue brands, grew its online presence but was heavily impacted by lockdown restrictions throughout much of the period.
Hardware retailer Robert Dyas reported sales growth for the year, following a 88% jump in online trading, while lingerie brand Boux Avenue saw 9.1% sales growth in the same period, following 129.7% growth in online sales.
Theo Paphitis said: “We are pleased with the performance and progress in the financial year ended March 2021 and inevitably the pandemic has affected our brands in different ways, with Boux Avenue and Robert Dyas making excellent progress in this last year.
“The results demonstrate the hard work and dedication of our colleagues across the group, and how the stores and online arms have worked together, building on our strategy and crucial investment prior to and during the pandemic.”
The trading update also saw the retail group report “strong” trading over the Christmas period, with sales for the six weeks to 24 December up 15.6% against the same period in 2019. This was driven by an 87.5% rise in online sales, with store revenues dipping by 6.3%.
Mr Paphitis said the drop in instore sales highlighted the current pressure facing the high street and called on chancellor Rishi Sunak to address this by overhauling business rates.
“The strength of our e-commerce trading masks the much more challenging store environment, in particular in city centres and prime locations, where business rates are unfairly high,” he said.
“It is therefore a major disappointment that this has failed to be structurally addressed by the Chancellor.
“The focus for 2022 is building on the positive, innovation, and our colleague development, in order to satisfy our customers.
“We, like so many in this sector, have responded well when we’ve had everything, including the kitchen sink thrown at us, and will continue to dig deep to keep physical retail alive, as a key function of communities, but we cannot do this on our own.”