Belfast Telegraph

High street naysayers wrong, says Mountain Warehouse boss

Mark Neale’s company saw sales rise more than 16%.

Mountain Warehouse has reported a 16% rise in sales (Anthony Devlin/PA)
Mountain Warehouse has reported a 16% rise in sales (Anthony Devlin/PA)

By August Graham, PA City Reporter

High street doom-mongers have been proven wrong about their predictions for retailers, the founder of Mountain Warehouse has said.

Mark Neale, the boss of the outdoor clothing and equipment seller, said his business had a record Christmas, for the 22nd year in a row.

Sales were up 16.2% to £95.8 million in the 13 weeks to December 29, the company confirmed. Like-for-like sales, which strips out the effect of new stores opening, rose around 5 or 6%, Mr Neale told the PA news agency.

Meanwhile, online sales rose more than 21%.

Figures were boosted by a bumper Black Friday, the busiest day in the company’s history, with total sales reaching more than £2.5 million.

It also chose that day to open four new stores – in the UK, Germany, New Zealand and Canada.

The openings take Mountain Warehouse’s portfolio to nearly 400 stores around the world, with 50 more set to open this year.

“I’m delighted to be reporting record Christmas trading for the 22nd year running, despite the snap election and some economic uncertainties around Brexit,” said Mr Neale.

“It demonstrates the success of our bricks and clicks strategy and proves the doom-mongers predicting the death of the high street are wrong.”

He told PA that the business has a list of 50 towns where it wants to open a store, but cannot find one, including Petersfield in Hampshire where it has been looking for a decade.

(PA Graphics)

His remarks come after a torrid year for many British high street brands.

Debenhams and Mothercare both fell into administration in 2019, and other collapses included Bonmarche, Links of London, Forever 21, and Mamas & Papas.

Mr Neale said that failures in the high street also provide opportunities for businesses such as his. The company still has eight stores which used to be Woolworths, and it snapped up New Look locations when it closed stores more recently.

“We’re always on the lookout for good shops, and, despite what you might read, good shops are still relatively hard to come by in many towns,” he said.

“But we, as much as anyone, need a vibrant high street with other retailers up and trading,” he added.

Three million customers bought 500,000 pairs of socks, more than one million winter jackets and a million winter hats, gloves and scarves, the company revealed.

“This puts us well on course for another record year and, as a result, we are continuing to invest in more stores, new territories and our online business,” Mr Neale said.