Greetings cards retailer Clinton Cards is gunning to grow its store base from 876 to 1,200 within six years and has revealed better than expected full-year trading.
The retailer wants 750 Clinton Cards stores, 250 Birthdays shops and 200 Pure Party stores – a chain it launched this year that sells mainly party products.
Clinton has 681 eponymous stores, 180 Birthdays and 15 Pure Party outlets at present. Group managing director Clinton Lewin said of Pure Party: “There’s definitely a business there we can expand in the future.”
However, the retailer has come under fire from the property sector after revealing it made a £13.5m profit buying back Birthdays after putting it into administration earlier this year.
British Property Federation chief executive Liz Peace said: “No one is against being flexible, but when firms claim hardship and then buy themselves back, saving millions of pounds, or start expanding again, the likelihood is that landlords will stand firm.”
Lewin also revealed plans to enhance Clinton’s website, with new features including forums and blogs, as well as a “Moonpigesque” operation selling personalised online cards, to be launched next year.
He wants to extend the retailer’s reach into English-speaking international markets via online operations and is aiming for the website to be a top five store eventually.
Clinton Cards’ pre-tax profits rose from £22m to £24m in the 52 weeks to August 2, while revenue slipped from £357m to £345m in the period.
After an improved second half, with flat like-for-likes at the Clinton fascia, like-for-likes fell 3.3% over the full year. Like-for-likes rose 2.9% in the first 10 weeks of the current year.
The retailer, which has 20% market share, said that in its most recent week, Birthdays’ like-for-like decline slowed to single digits. The chain’s stores are expected to be profitable in the current year.
Lewin said he “feels good” about the full-year figures and that, had the retailer not put Birthdays into administration, “things would have looked a lot more bleak”. He added: “We’re quietly confident for Christmas.”
➤ Etail start-up Whamoosh aims to grab a slice of the online cards market and go head to head with Moonpig. The business, set up by entrepreneur John Bickley, is targeting sales of £20m in four years. It will offer personalised cards and gifts.