White Company in the black

The upmarket homeware and linen chain sees earnings surge by more than a third.

by Elizabeth Anderson
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012
As Britain’s high street retailers brace themselves for a lacklustre summer, retailers at the top end of the market are showing signs of a more positive outlook.  Luxury retailer the White Company posted a 37% surge in earnings to £10.7m; albeit measured by the rather generous EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation.)

And it seems the weak consumer outlook hasn’t dampened sales: revenues rose 22% to £102m in the year to the end of March - the fastest growth rate since before the recession.  The company, known for its white homeware and bed linen, also opened 10 new stores this year.  It said its ‘multi-channel’ presence, which includes a mail order system, online shop, and 36 stores was the key to the company’s success.

The White Company isn’t the only upmarket brand to report strong sales. This week Burberry reported that total sales jumped by almost a third over the last three months, helped by growing demand from Asia. Revenues hit £367m – well above the City’s £340m forecast.

But it’s a different story elsewhere on the beleaguered high street.  Budget fashion chain H&M posted a 4% sales drop in June as squeezed customers cut back on spending. The downbeat outlook came hot on the heels of other retailers warning that the consumer outlook remains weak - earlier this week M&S reported a sales increase of 1.7%, but chief executive Marc Bolland admitted the chain had been forced to launch its summer sale early.  

It follows a recent run of failures, with Jane Norman, Homeform and Habitat the main casualties of falling sales and rising rents. Meanwhile other retailers are struggling to keep their head above water. Chocolate chain Thorntons is closing up to half its stores, and Clinton Cards is considering a radical restructuring, which could lead to a number of shops being cut. Can luxury brands continue to defy the trend?

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