Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland family department store firm enjoys surge in profits and sales

Independent retailer still wary of Brexit implications

By John Mulgrew

A family-owned department store chain has posted surging profits as well as growing sales to almost £14m, but says it has felt some impact on business due to the vote for Brexit.

Ulster Stores is an independent retailer with headquarters in Coleraine. It owns a number of department stores across the north coast and in Wales.

They include Moores of Coleraine, the White House in Portrush and Clares of Llandudno.

The latest accounts for Ulster Stores Ltd for the year ending January 31, 2017 show that the company increased its pre-tax profits six-fold, rising from £39,000 to £242,000.

The firm also saw a rise in sales.

Turnover increased marginally, from £13.2m to £13.8m.

The company's average workforce decreased slightly during the last year, falling from 216 to 202.

However, its overall pay bill increased by around 7%, reaching £2.7m.

The business said, in line with the group strategy, it is "focused on the sale of quality branded merchandise, both directly as own bought, and in-store concessions".

It said the "directors were pleased to note that the new brands introduced this year have performed very well, and have helped contribute to the sales growth".

Writing in the strategic report, it said it has "continued to invest in technology and its digital presence".

"The launch of a new corporate website and investment in a new web platform to support future online growth during the latter part of the year demonstrates a commitment by the directors to seek future growth in this area," the company said.

Speaking about the UK's decision to leave the EU, the company said that "during the course of the year some impact was felt from Brexit negotiations".

"Exchange rate movements started to impact the cost of goods purchased by the company," it said.

"Margin management has continued to be important in maintaining the company's performance and the directors regularly review margin.

"These inflationary pressures are expected to continue through at least the next year, and may also impact on levels of customers' disposable income."

And it added the directors "continue to closely monitor the progress of the Brexit process and seek to mitigate risk wherever possible".

On its website, the firm says "each of our stores is different and has a product mix unique to them".

"Within them you will find a fabulous selection of local and international brands covering the very best of fashion, cosmetics and fragrances, jewellery, accessories and products for your home.

"Our heritage is what sets us apart.

"Each of our stores offers a bright and modern shopping environment, yet each has been sympathetically modernised, so as to retain their original heritage features playing off the tensions and feelings that are created when mixing the old and new."

The stores sell a range of top brands, including clothing such as Gant, as well as a wide range of homeware.

The business dates back to 1925, and has introduced new labels in the last few years such as Whitestuff, Joules, Seasalt and French Connection.

Belfast Telegraph

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