Fenwick suffers Covid-19 sales hammerblow with loss of £45m

Closed stores and a fledgling online business contributed to a 50% reduction in sales for the fashion and cosmetics seller

Fenwick's Bond Street store, London, UK

UK department store chain Fenwick has been severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, with operating losses for its full year trading standing at £45m.

During the 52 week period, the retailer, along with other non-essential businesses, was forced to close the doors to its nine stores for almost half of the year, resulting in massively reduced footfall.

And with only a fledgling online platform to cushion the blow of its shuttered stores, sales were more than halved for the 12-month period.

This is something the group wants to change in the coming months, and has set ‘significant’ growth targets for its online business over the next year.

Net assets were also reduced to £376m and operating cash fell by £39m, forcing Fenwick to claim £9m in furlough support from the government and £8.7m in business rates relief to offset some of the impact of Covid-19.

In order to safeguard its business against further disruptions, Fenwick has borrowed funds to cushion its liquidity.

“These results reflect the challenges that the retail sector faced in 2020,” said John Edgar, Fenwick’s CEO, who joined the retailer in April 2020, just days after the UK government ordered all non-essential retail to close to curb infection rates of Covid-19.

At the same time a major reshuffle was happening behind the scenes of Fenwick with three members of its Board stepping down.

In May Simon Calber was named Chairman elect, officially taking the title upon Steve Barber’s retirement in June.

“I’m very proud of the way the Fenwick team adapted to these challenges to provide customers with our trademark Fenwick hospitality, rapidly scale up our online offer and introduce new services, such as concierge,” added Edgar, a former CFO at Selfridges and Harrods.

“We are now focussed on ensuring our nine stores and website continue to build stability and serve our local communities in the year ahead.”

Fenwick is not alone in its disappointing results; dozens of other major high street names have also struggled to weather the Covid-19 storm.

Boots, despite being allowed to remain open as an essential retailer throughout lockdown, struggled to meet financial expectations with sluggish sales.

The group also culled some 300 jobs from its HQ team.

Beleaguering high street staple Debenhams almost completely collapsed, only surviving thanks to a takeover deal with online giant Boohoo, while Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia spiralled into insolvency over a weekend in November.

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