The boss of Dunelm has said he agrees with rules that allowed his supermarket rivals to keep selling homewares while his business was forced to close.
Chief executive Nick Wilkinson said that from a customer standpoint, it made very little sense to cordon off the aisle selling products for the home in essential shops, including supermarkets.
His comments came as Dunelm reported that it had lost market share when it was forced to close its shops in November while rivals could stay open.
However, it nonetheless reported a strong set of financial results for the six months to the end of December.
We’ve got very high sales right now of garden furniture, because actually the country ran out of garden furniture to buy in the middle of the first lockdownNick Wilkinson, Dunelm
“We’d like to be open soon, we think our stores are safe. But we think it’s absolutely fine that stores that are open are permitted to sell homewares. Because otherwise it’s just a bit odd, isn’t it?” Mr Wilkinson said.
“Some local districts tried to prevent that happening, but customers just said: ‘Look, I’m here, why can’t I buy a saucepan?’ And I think from a customer point of view, I’m sort of with them.”
The business said that it lost market share during the period that its stores were forced to close.
However, when including the rest of the six months to Boxing Day, Dunelm said it “significantly outperformed the market”.
Pre-tax profit soared more than a third to £112.4 million on revenue of £719.4 million, up 23%.
Its online offering was lively, seeing sales jump 111%.
Now, after further restrictions which started in January, all but one of the shops – one in Jersey which opened last week as restrictions changed – are closed, said Mr Wilkinson.
At the moment, staff are on what the company calls a “furlough equivalent” scheme, which covers 80% of an employee’s salary when they cannot work.
However, the business has been able to find meaningful work for most of its approximately 10,000 staff.
The company’s garden furniture is selling strongly, despite snow over some parts of the country, as people prepare for summer.
Mr Wilkinson said: “We’ve got very high sales right now of garden furniture, because actually the country ran out of garden furniture to buy in the middle of the first lockdown.
“Those goods are now coming in and we’re busy selling them as people get ready for another summer, probably of more time at home than they’d planned.”
Products that performed well over the six-month period include hygiene-related goods such as bedding, towels and cleaning products, while storage, lighting and desks also sold well.
However, sales grew across all categories, Mr Wilkinson said.
The company’s curtain factory in Leicester produced 65,000 medical gowns to help fill a gap in personal protective equipment during the pandemic.
Shares in the company rose 6.9% on Wednesday morning.