Blacks Leisure has reported a reduction in its full-year pre-tax loss and exceptional items to £6.6m from £14.4m the previous year but still suffered a “disappointing” year and has confirmed Julia Reynolds as its new chief executive.
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The outdoor specialist said while the loss reflects a disappointing period of trading, particularly in the first half of the year, it is a “significant underlying improvement in results following the restructuring action taken in the prior year, including the CVA”.
Sales fell 16% to £202m from £240.5m in the previous year. The number of stores open at the end of the financial year was slightly lower at 308, from 313, as 88 stores closed in its CVA.
Despite the reduction in stores, the group opened 13 new or rebranded stores in the year. These stores together account for around 10% of total group sales.
Like-for-like sales declined by 6.1%. Blacks said trading conditions continued to be challenging in the year. Outdoor like-for-likes were up 10.2% over Christmas with the snowy weather, but overall outdoor was down 4.9%. Boardwear, which will close in the coming months, fell by 28.5% like-for-like.
In its new financial year, Blacks said trading conditions have remained tough. As a result, sales levels in the period since the year end have been “below expectations” Blacks said.
Blacks said this is the third year of the retailer’s turnaround, and now much of the business restructuring has been completed. The next phase involves focusing on enhancing the retail proposition across its stores and driving improvement in margin and product performance.
Chief executive Neil Gillis will hand over to Reynolds in summer. Reynolds joins from Figleaves.com and prior to that was category director at Tesco.
Blacks has also secured a new revolving credit facility with its banks to run until July 2012. The facility will be extended to November 2012 when the new chief executive takes up the role.
David Bernstein, chairman, said: “This has been another difficult year for both the group and the UK retail sector generally, with consumer confidence still continuing to be fragile. Despite this, action taken by the group has resulted in the delivery of a much reduced loss for the year.”
Gillis said: “Blacks Leisure now has a more focused estate of stores, a significantly reduced overhead base and a proven new store format which has been successfully rolled out this year. The business is now well placed to move from turnaround to recovery with a focus on outstanding retailing to restore it to a leadership position within outdoor retail.”