Belfast Telegraph

Fortnum & Mason stocks up on extra champagne ahead of Brexit

The department store’s CEO said he does not anticipate any slowdown in consumer spending before Christmas.

Fortnum & Mason has bought an extra two months supply of champagne ahead of Brexit as the upmarket retailer becomes the latest firm to start hoarding stock.

Chief executive Ewan Venters said champagne was the only product for which the business has upped its orders, as 82% of products are sourced in the UK.

“I just wouldn’t like to run short of champagne for the Chelsea Flower Show,” he said at a briefing with journalists, referencing the retailer’s position as official supplier to the annual event.

It follows statements made by retailer Majestic last week, which said it would buy more than 1 million additional bottles of wine in case no exit deal can be reached.

However Mr Venters added that he is less concerned by Brexit than he was a year ago, given the assurances for EU citizens in the UK.

He also said that although consumer spending can slow down amid uncertainty, he does not expect the vote on the draft Brexit deal to affect this Christmas shopping season.

“Whatever happens on 11 December that wouldn’t affect consumer behaviour in the lead-up to Christmas,” he said.

His comments came as the department store unveiled rising sales and profits, including a jump in sales of tea and biscuits.

Overall sales in the year ending July 2018 were up 12%, the company said, reaching £126 million.

Profits jumped £26% to £9.6 million.

This marks the sixth successive year of double-digit sales growth for Fortnum’s, as well as a rare bright spot in the troubled retail industry.

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Fortnum and Mason’s food on display (PA)

“This year has not been without its challenges, but we’re proud to report another exceptional trading period,” said Mr Venters.

“By being faithful to our heritage and pedigree, focusing on the creation of extraordinary products and exceptional service, and delivering our world-renowned products to customers anywhere in the world, I am pleased that we are able to meet the growing demand for quality and impeccably-sourced products.”

Loose leaf tea and British biscuits both notched up sales rises of 21% during the period, as more consumers turned to the traditional department store for their afternoon tea supplies.

International growth also boosted the retailer, as Fortnum’s opened two new shops in South Korea.

Online shoppers from 125 countries ordered products, with a particularly strong 55% rise in orders to Hong Kong.

In the domestic UK market, like-for-like sales at the iconic Piccadilly flagship store rose 10% while the restaurant 45 Jermyn St was up 18%.

Earlier this month, Fortnum’s opened a new restaurant and shop at the Royal Exchange in the City of London.

Chairman Kate Hobhouse said: “London is, and always will be, a great place to do business, and we have taken the quality that Fortnum’s can offer to the beating heart of the City.”

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