Sales across Black Friday and the Christmas trading period so far are ahead of Joules expectations

Sales across Black Friday and the Christmas trading period so far are ahead of Joules' expectations

British clothing retailer Joules has offered an optimistic outlook, despite store closures and discounting hitting sales and margins in its latest trading period.

Group revenues for the 26 weeks ended 29 November were down 15.3% to GBP94.5m (US$126.2m), reflecting the impact of enforced store closures and the cancellation of country shows across the UK. Total retail revenue was 6% lower year-on-year to GBP75.3m as a result of lower footfall when stores re-opened.

Sales across Black Friday and the Christmas trading period so far are ahead of the board's expectations, the retailer said, with the performance driven by strong e-commerce growth. Total e-commerce sales were up by 35% in the first half, with revenue from Joules' own e-commerce channels up by 45%. E-commerce represented more than 70% of the group's retail revenue during the 26 weeks.

Retail gross margin, however, was down by approximately three percentage points due to increased promotional activity during the first three months of the period, and the retailer having to clear elevated levels of spring/summer stock.

Wholesale revenues, meanwhile, slumped 44% to GBP17.2m, reflecting the ongoing impact of Covid-19 on many of the group's wholesale partners both in the UK and overseas. As a result, international sales were down 29%.

"The strength of our digital proposition, the increased number of Joules customers and the growing appeal of the brand has meant that Joules has continued to trade well during the period, despite the impact of enforced store closures," said CEO Nick Jones.

"We delivered a good Black Friday trading period through our online channel and our Friends of Joules digital marketplace continues to perform ahead of our expectations. We have strong momentum, particularly through our online channel, and a good stock position that underpins our confidence for the peak Christmas trading period. We have been pleased with the performance of our stores in England for the first few days since their re-opening in early December.

"The retail sector continues to face a number of near and medium-term challenges, including the ongoing impact of Covid-19 on our communities and economy as well as Brexit-related uncertainties. I have no doubt that Joules, underpinned by the strength of our brand and our flexible and scalable platform that now includes our Friends of Joules digital marketplace, is well-positioned to be one of the long-term winners against this challenging backdrop."