Mountain Warehouse sees sales climb

Outdoor goods and camping retailer Mountain Warehouse has scaled new heights with record festive trading, boosted by a sharp rise in online sales, chilly weather and the opening of more stores.

The group now has more than 270 stores. Picture: Contributed

Figures revealed that total sales had leapt by 38.2 per cent in the six weeks to the end of December. Like-for-like sales, which strip out the impact of changes in selling space, were up by 33.1 per cent in the period, with online sales jumping 76.6 per cent.

Company founder and chief executive Mark Neale said Black Friday had been the busiest day in the firm’s 20-year history.

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He noted that during the six-week festive period, staff had served 1.5 million customers with bestselling items including more than 250,000 pairs of socks, 250,000 pairs of gloves, 150,000 padded jackets and 80,000 snow boots.

Neale said the solid Christmas trading performance meant he was confident of delivering another set of record full-year results.

“We had a cracking Christmas with remarkable growth across our UK stores, online and internationally,” the chief executive said.

“A business which equips customers to brave the elements will always benefit when it snows, and the December cold snap was a bit of an early Christmas present for us. Another was Black Friday, with sales reaching £2 million in a single day alone for the first time in our history.

“The shape of Christmas has changed in recent years. It used to get gradually busier week by week from November onwards. More recently, since the Black Friday phenomenon came to the UK, there has been a spike in sales followed by a couple of quieter weeks and a late rush.

“This year, the bad weather meant we didn’t really see much of a slowdown after the Black Friday stampede.”

The firm, which started with a single store in December 1997, opened more than 30 branches last year and plans to open a similar number in 2018, creating more than 300 jobs. It now has some 270 stores, including more than 20 in Scotland, with a footprint in seven countries.

Recent UK openings include Oxford city centre and Southwold in Suffolk, while the business also opened stores in Krakow and Poznan in Poland, Winnipeg in Canada and Limerick in Ireland. It is eyeing two new markets – Holland and the Czech Republic – with store openings expected in the first quarter of 2018.

During the festive trading period, international sales surged 43 per cent, accounting for about a third of the total.

The group’s sporty sister brand, Zakti, which sells ski wear, gym, yoga, running and cycling kit, is also said to have traded well, helped by the continuing growth in the popularity of “athleisure”.

Mountain Warehouse made pre-tax profits of £19.8m in the year to 28 February 2017, up 22 per cent on the previous year, on sales totalling £184.8m.

At the time of the full-year results, Neale said he was “not overly concerned” about the prospect of shoppers reining in their spending in the face of rising inflation.

Unlike some retailers on the high street, he said the firm had managed to shield customers from Brexit-induced price rises thanks to currency hedging and favourable prices from suppliers in China.