Fortnum & Mason reports strong Christmas trading

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Driven by an expanding domestic customer base and impressive online growth, Fortnum & Mason enjoyed 21% growth in sales over Christmas. In the five-week period ending 26th December, the business welcomed four million people across all channels, one million more than in 2019. In the Christmas period over 700 additional staff were recruited to support greater online demand. The business saw strong year-on-year online growth (particularly on mobile devices) of +65% in December as the working from home guidance was introduced and amid the uncertainty surrounding the arrival of Omicron. Prioritising our mobile-first proposition, and other improvements in our online user experience contributed to better traffic conversion and sales for both new and existing customers.

For the year to 11th July 2021, tiered restrictions and national lockdowns caused by Covid- 19 led to the prolonged closure of much of the retail and all of the hospitality space, and Fortnum’s saw sharply reduced footfall at the Piccadilly store and their other UK sites at Royal Exchange, St Pancras and Heathrow, and the flagship store in Hong Kong.

With sales at the Piccadilly store and hospitality outlets traditionally accounting for 80% of revenues, overall turnover was consequently down 6 per cent at £132m.

Against the backdrop of the pandemic, online sales increased strongly and accounted for 55% of all sales. The greatest demand was seen in Wines, Home Entertaining, Fresh & Deli and Hampers as customers increased gifting, worked from home more, and took “staycations”. Growing online demand, coupled with continued investment into our digital acceleration, saw the business acquire 500,000 new customers during the year.

Profits were impacted by the fall in retail sales, increases in supply chain costs and further by the decision to prioritise the welfare of our teams and not to seek support from the Government’s furlough scheme.

Fortnum & Mason also made over £50k of charitable donations to charities Centrepoint, Streetsmart and the Felix Project.

Tom Athron, CEO of Fortnum & Mason, said: “Fortnum’s mission is simply to bring joy to our customers through extraordinary food, unforgettable experiences and exceptional service, and after the inevitable challenges of a year dominated by COVID, we are emerging stronger and more resilient than we were before. I have been so impressed with the agility of the Fortnum’s team as we reacted to a fast-changing world, and in particular the performance of our digital channels. As a direct result, we have expanded the brand’s reach and welcomed many new customers and encouragingly this trend has continued since we reopened our shops and restaurants in the summer of 2021 – we now have a domestic business that has almost doubled in size over the pandemic. Christmas was exceptionally strong as customers put us at the heart of their plans to properly celebrate.

“Looking ahead, the broader outlook remains uncertain and we are seeing the same cost pressures materialise as others in our market have reported. However, I am confident that 2022 will be an exciting year for Fortnum’s, building on this momentum with continued investment in our Piccadilly flagship as well as our technology capabilities and increased capacity to support the growth in demand, both here, and overseas. We are also very excited about this year’s Platinum Jubilee, and the role we will play in the search for a pudding fit for The Queen.”

Kate Hobhouse, chairman of Fortnum & Mason, said: “2021 has been a testing year, but throughout our focus has been on the health and wellbeing of our people, and on continuing to deliver the very best products and experiences for our customers. We are particularly grateful for the hard work and determination of all of our people during these difficult and complex times. While we are still in the early stages of recovery, we are confident that our digital growth, coupled with a strong domestic sales performance underpins a long and sustainable future ahead.”