Jul 15, 2021
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Liberty hit hard by flagship Covid closure, but online booms

Jul 15, 2021

Upscale department store and webstore Liberty has filed its results for the year to the end of January and said that it was "significantly impacted" by the three separate Covid lockdown in the UK that dented footfall to its flagship store in Great Marlborough Street, London.

Photo: Sandra Halliday

It meant the flagship was closed for almost six months of the financial period and even when it was open, restrictions on movement meant that both domestic and international tourists stayed away. Meanwhile, the office workers on which it can usually depend in London's West End were also staying at home.

That said, Liberty Online benefited from the lockdown and the company said it showed strong revenue growth year-on-year. This was enabled by the company’s historical investment in its online infrastructure, “which allowed the business to seamlessly transfer the Liberty product offering onto digital platforms”.

Looking at the numbers, total revenue fell to £55.768 million from £93.138 million a year earlier. Sales per square foot, including concession revenue, at its flagship store fell to £358 from £1,309 as the impact of the store closures kicked in.

EBITDA before non-recurring and one-off items, was a loss of £12.588 million from a profit of £14.442 million a year earlier. But while the company made a pre-tax loss of £1.322 million, that was better than the loss of £6.696 million a year earlier. And it managed a net profit of £2.522 million, again, much better than the loss of £8.342 million a year ago.

Most of its sales growth came via brand new customers that it acquired for its online ops during the period, although it also saw a smaller boost from customers who would have otherwise visited its flagship transferring their spend online.

The company added that it saw strong growth online in all categories with "the most significant" being beauty and home. With most of its customers being forced to spend a large amount of time at home, categories such as homewares, fabrics and replenishing important beauty items were the key drivers of its growth. But it also had a record year for its Liberty advent calendar and added that previous investments to improve the shopping experience for international customers paid off. 

And it didn't see a huge impact from Brexit due to it having been well prepared for the UK's departure from the EU. But it still saw some delay in stock movement.

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