Card Factory slides to £16m loss following covid store closures

CARD Factory has swung to a loss for the past year after store closures slashed its sales by more than a third.

One of the north’s most prolific retail chains with 42 shops, the company reported a £16.4 million pre-tax loss for the year to January 31, compared with a £65.2m profit for the previous year.

The group said its stores were closed for an average of five months during the year, hammering sales.

Annual revenues tumbled by 36.9 per cent to £285.1m for the year, despite the company reporting that trading was "better than expected" after reopening sites following the first and second lockdowns.

Card Factory was able to reopen much of its estate from April 12 following the third coronavirus lockdown. The Northern Ireland stores were unable to reopen until April 30.

Card Factory also has 14 outlets in the Republic.

It said sales in stores were ahead of its previous reopening performances, although "activity levels settled after initial pent-up demand was satisfied".

The group added that recent transaction volumes are below the same period in 2019, before the impact of the pandemic, although lower footfall has been "largely offset" by higher spending per customer.

Last month, the retailer also agreed £225m in new debt facilities to fund its recovery strategy and stimulate further online growth.

Recently appointed chief executive officer Darcy Willson-Rymer said the refinancing has put the company in a strong position to build on its "excellent platform" for future growth.

"Since joining Card Factory in March 2021, I've been immensely encouraged by what I have seen and heard," he said.

"We have successfully reopened our entire store estate following the third lockdown and delivered a reassuring performance in stores, whilst maintaining online momentum.

"Our powerful brand and unique business model means we are well placed to respond positively to the changing retail environment and to unlock the inherent potential in this business."

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