Belfast Telegraph

Budget fashion store roll-out helps Poundland end year on strong note

Assurances: Andy Bond
Assurances: Andy Bond

By Holly Williams

Budget retail giant Poundland has reported "strong" sale growth despite a turbulent year for the sector.

The firm's owner hailed "strong" sales growth as the roll-out of Pep&Co fashion outlets helped the budget chain shrug off wider high street woes.

Poundland has 33 stores in Northern Ireland.

Parent firm Pepkor Europe - owned by crisis-hit South African group Steinhoff - said the performance from its 840 Poundland stores across the UK and Ireland contributed to a 12.9% jump in overall group-wide sales to £705m in its fourth quarter.

This saw revenues rise 10.6% to £2.7bn for the year to September 30.

Andy Bond, chief executive of Pepkor Europe, hailed a recent return to like-for-like sales growth at Poundland after a hit earlier in the year.

He also gave assurances that Poundland and its other brands, such as Pepco and Dealz across Europe, were "financially strong" as the retailer continues to distance itself from the troubles at Steinhoff.

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The company was plunged into crisis last year after disclosures of irregularities linked to its 2016 accounts, becoming one of South Africa's biggest corporate scandals.

Mr Bond said: "We ended the financial year very strongly, as our key brands focused uncompromisingly on the delivery of their respective business plans.

"Poundland's return to like-for-like growth is encouraging and the continued growth of Pepco clearly evidences the broad appeal of their value for money proposition in existing and new markets."

Steinhoff said last week that it would have to put back the release of its restated results for 2017 and 2018 due to delays to the investigation by auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The probe is being carried out after multibillion-pound holes were unearthed which saw 90% of Steinhoff's stock market value wiped out and triggered a fire sale of assets, leading to speculation that Poundland could also be sold.

But Mr Bond has sought to give reassurance over Pepkor, saying in August the group was "undistracted by events at our parent company".

In its latest trading update, Pepkor said Poundland's sales growth was driven largely by the launch of Pep&Co discount clothing concessions "shop-in-shops" in more than 300 stores.

But total group-wide sales growth was partially offset by the closure of 60 stores in the previous financial year.

Pepkor has 2,360 stores in total, which is up 12.6% over the year.

The announcement comes just months after rival discount brand Poundworld collapsed in June.

The administration resulted in Poundworld closing its doors across the UK, including its 12 stores in Northern Ireland, with 188 employees affected.

In September, Poundland took over 20 former Poundworld stores in Britain and suggested it could do the same in Northern Ireland.

Belfast Telegraph

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