Sales rise at family-owned NI retail fashion chain SD Kells
One of Northern Ireland's largest family-owned clothing retailers has reported pre-tax profits of £1m.
Co Fermanagh-based SD Kells, led by Ian Kells, has 10 of its own-brand stores across Northern Ireland and a further nine Regatta outlet stores in locations such as Newtownards, Downpatrick and Enniskillen.
Despite one of the most challenging periods for independent retailers in recent times, the family-owned fashion chain saw sales rise 2.6% to £12.5m for the year ending January 19, 2019.
Pre-tax profits did fall 10% to £1.03m, but the company's directors said SD Kells "continued to trade strongly from existing outlets".
In its strategic report, the fashion chain said that during the year to January 19 this year "the company continued to trade strongly from existing outlets and the directors were satisfied with the level of sales generated".
The document continued: "Sales increased during the year by over 2.6%, although operating profit before depreciation had decreased from £1,248,971 to £1.035,469.
"At the end of the financial year the directors were satisfied that loans against the trading and investment properties had been significantly reduced and the company's balance sheet had strengthened."
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It also said that the company expects the trading conditions experienced between January 2018 and January of this year will continue in the incoming year.
It added that the directors remain committed to expanding the business as they identify opportunities.
Glyn Roberts, chief executive of Retail NI, welcomed the figures and said the company's success is indicative of a revival in the fortunes of local independent retailers in Northern Ireland.
Reacting to the figures reported by the company, he said: "It isn't that unusual.
"I think what we are seeing now is independent retailers making a comeback by offering something different and distinctive from the big multiples.
"They aren't just surviving, they are thriving and that's wonderful to see."
According to Mr Roberts, smaller independent retailers are actually enjoying better trading conditions than larger high street brands.
"I think it is because they can provide that personal touch, it goes a long way when it comes to your customers and in building relations in business," he continued.
"They are willing and able to go the extra mile, they understand what the customer wants and needs and are willing to react in response.
"I suppose, in many ways, they are learning from mistakes made in the past, they have learned the hard way, and we have new players coming in all the time and older businesses reinventing themselves all the time.
"So while I am encouraged to hear of the success of SD Kells, I am not particularly surprised."
Stores owned by SD Kells stock menswear, ladies' fashion, children's wear, beds and linens, as well as formal and wedding hire.
In 2015, the company's managing director, Ian Kells, put the chain's success at that time down to a focus customers.
He said: "We still consider ourselves to be a family-run business.
"The main focus is the customers. The people that run our company are the staff and we just try to give our customers what they want."
He also revealed that the company is aware of the fact that customers expect different service depending on the location of the shop and the business reacts to that accordingly.
The first SD Kells store was founded by Samuel and Mary Kells in Lisnaskea in 1928.