Belfast Telegraph

The Works shares squishy after profit warning

Squishies, a children’s toy, were so in vogue last year that they had a big role in driving down the group’s top line in the first half of 2019.

High street retailers have faced tough conditions as footfall drops (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)
High street retailers have faced tough conditions as footfall drops (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

By August Graham, PA City Reporter

Shares in The Works collapsed on Thursday after the company warned that profit will be much lower than expected over the year, even as it eyes the vital Christmas period.

The company’s value on the London markets fell a massive 43% as the troubled arts and crafts retailer said it had been hit by a “difficult consumer backdrop”.

When stripping out incredibly high sales of Squishies – squeezable toys for children – like-for-like sales dropped by 1.9%.

When including Squishies, like-for-like sales fell 3.6%. Total revenue increased 5.4%.

The Works excludes so-called mega trends, products that account for more than 3% of weekly sales over a “material” time period.

The consumer environment has remained challenging Kevin Keaney, The Works

“The consumer environment has remained challenging and we have been trading against strong comparators given last year’s mega trend,” said chief executive Kevin Keaney.

Although sales have improved in recent weeks, the board warned that it expects “full-year profit before tax to be significantly below current market expectations”.

It is a big blow for the company as it looks forward to the vital Christmas period when it hopes to sell new Frozen 2 merchandise.

However, Mr Keaney said he is still “confident” in The Works’ ability to grow in the medium term.

“We have responded decisively to minimise the impact to our performance and are benefiting from easier comparators in the second half,” he said.

“We now look ahead to the busy Christmas period fully prepared and ready to deliver for our customers with a fantastic selection of good-quality and great-value products.

“Notwithstanding the current backdrop, we remain confident in our medium-term growth opportunities and we continue to invest to unlock them.”

The Works has 525 stores in the UK and Ireland, and hopes to open another 22 before the end of the financial year.

“The current high street environment creates opportunities, with the structural shift in the retail sector resulting in a strong pipeline of affordable, good-quality retail space,” it said in a statement.