Mountain Warehouse is bucking the downsizing trend on the high street with plans to open a further 50 stores this year creating hundreds of jobs.
Scotland is in the outdoor clothing and equipment retailer’s sights as it sets about adding to its 350 or so outlets globally. The new openings will include about 20 branches in the UK as well as more in Europe, North America and New Zealand.
A spokesman for the group, which already has more than 20 stores in Scotland, said bosses were eyeing a larger flagship branch on Edinburgh’s Princes Street as well as a new site on the city’s historic Royal Mile.
It is also looking at bringing its “quirky, impulse gift chain”, called Neon Sheep, to Scotland.
The group outlined its expansion plans as it delivered its 22nd year of unbroken sales growth. The performance was boosted by 48 store openings, creating more than 500 jobs. Of those, 33 were in the UK, including new outlets in St Andrews, Sheffield and London.
Overall sales jumped 13 per cent to £255 million in the 12 months to the end of February, with like-for-like sales, which strip out the impact of additional selling space, rising 5.3 per cent.
Pre-tax profits increased 14 per cent to a record £23.7m, fuelled by strong demand online and the group’s growing international footprint.
Online sales were up 23 per cent, accounting for around a quarter of total sales, though the chain remains firmly committed to its physical retail presence.
The group opened a further 15 outlets overseas during the year, including the first two outlets in New Zealand, taking its international footprint to 87 stores in eight countries. New distribution centres were opened in Poznan, Poland and Christchurch, New Zealand.
Meanwhile, the firm – which started with a single store in Swindon, in 1997 – will open ten more branches of Neon Sheep, doubling the size of that business.
Founder and chief executive Mark Neale said the group had delivered another set of record results, “despite the obvious headwinds”.
He added: “It’s no secret that many retailers are finding it tough going, but our relentless focus on value continues to hit the mark.
“The results also owe much to the terrific efforts of our 3,500 people and the work that we continue doing to diversify and weather-proof the business.
“This year we have more than doubled the size of our women’s summer range. As a result, we expect to sell over 100,000 summer dresses [and] over 500,000 tops and T shirts.”
In July 2018, Inflexion Private Equity Partners, through specialist fund Inflexion Partnership Capital, invested £45m in the business in return for a minority stake.
Unlike many of its competitors, almost all of its stock is exclusive to Mountain Warehouse.