East Anglia: Further fall in sales for department stores chain Beales

Sales a department stores chain Beales fell again over the summer.

Sales a department stores chain Beales fell again over the summer. - Credit: Archant © 2013

Department stores chain Beales said today that the next four months would be important for its turnaround strategy after a further fall in sales over the summer.

Beales, which operates 30 stores around the country, in towns including Beccles, Lowestoft, Diss, Saffron Walden, Wisbech and King’s Lynn, said total sales in the 19 weeks to Septemer 14 were 10.5% down on the same period last year, leaving the figure for the first 45 weeks of the group’s financial year 8.4% lower.

The decline partly reflected the group’ss decision to close three loss-making stores, in Skipton in October 2012, Maidstone in June 2013 and Cinderford in July 2013, on the cessation of their leases.

On a like-for-like basis, sales were 7.7% lower for the 19 weeks to September 14 and 7.3% down for the 45-week period.

Beales said its move to exit the low margin television and audio market last November 2012 and its decision in February this year not to chase sales through highly promotionally-driven offers at the expense of gross margin had also had “a material impact” on sales although the impact on gross profit had been less.

It added that sales had also been adversely affected by the UK’s “unusually extreme weather patterns”, with wet but mild conditions during the early autumn/winter 2012 season followed by severe cold during the early spring/summer of 2013, together with the collapse of three concessions into administration and the poor performance of a number of women’s fashion concessions.

Management had responded to these challenges through work on stocking to ensure the correct mix of product which had resulted in a “cleaner” stock profile, less discounting and improved margins, so mitigating some of the volume-related profit reduction.

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Chief executive Michael Hitchcock said: “I am proud to report that everyone across the business has continued to work tirelessly over the last nine months to position the business for growth and to continue the turnaround that is taking place.

“The business has a great new range of products, motivated staff and greatly improved store environments and the next four months are important in the ongoing turnaround strategy.”