Fashion retailer Premier Investments has seen its sales recover over the first half of the new financial year despite lockdowns across Sydney and Melbourne forcing it to close more than half of its stores.
In an update to investors ahead of the company’s annual general meeting on Thursday, Premier said its total sales for the 17 weeks to the end of November fell 3.5 per cent, a vast improvement on the first seven weeks of the half where the company’s revenue slumped 9.5 per cent.
The company, which is controlled by its billionaire chairman Solomon Lew, owns brands including sleepwear chain Peter Alexander, fashion retailers Just Jeans, Jay Jays and Portmans, and kids’ stationary seller Smiggle.
Premier Investments chief executive Richard Murray (left) and chairman Solomon Lew are expecting a bumper December quarter. Credit:Elke Meitzel
Since the end of November, its stores in NSW, the ACT, Victoria and New Zealand have progressively reopened as pandemic restrictions were wound back. Over the past three weeks the business had all its stores globally open and trading again, with sales gaining 10.1 per cent over that period when compared to the same time last year.
Like many other retailers, Premier has been hit hard by the coronavirus lockdowns over the past six months. The company says it has lost a total of 42,000 trading days in this financial year, with more than half of its stores being forced to close at some point.
However, with lockdowns largely done and dusted, the business is feeling positive for the key Christmas period.
“Whilst there are some significant trading weeks ahead, the customer reaction to Premier Retail’s product provides the group confidence for the remainder of the half,” Mr Lew said.
“While we acknowledge the group is still operating in highly uncertain times, we are confident we are taking the actions we can to maintain maximum flexibility and control our destiny.”
CEO Richard Murray, who left his longstanding role as chief executive of JB Hi-Fi to head up Premier earlier this year, told shareholders the company would continue to put the hard word on shopping centre landlords when it comes to rents.
“We consider each area of our business a profit centre,” he said. “This focus means we need to continue to work actively with our landlords to ensure the group continues to receive rental agreements that reflect the financial security, scale and opportunities our brands bring to shopping centres.”
Mr Murray and Mr Lew both hinted that Premier could look to make some acquisitions in the near future, with Mr Lew pointing to the company’s half-a-billion dollars of cash on its balance sheet.
“Our strong balance sheet provides us with the flexibility to take advantage of opportunities for further business investment. We will continue to take a long-term view of the sector and invest ahead of the curve,” he said.
More to come.
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