River Island has reported a loss following a challenging 2020 as sales tumbled during periods of enforced store closures due to the pandemic. 

river island shop

The company recorded a pre-tax loss of £51.5m for the year to December 26 2020, compared to a profit of £3.8m the year prior. Operating loss stood at £36.2m, down from an operating profit of £21.4m the year previous.

Sales fell from £879.5m to £600.5m in the same period, with footfall in its 270 stores dropping by two thirds. River Island has closed around 20 stores in the past two years. 

Online shopping grew for the fashion retailer, now accounting for around half of its sales, according to The Times. The brand also added 100 new workers in online roles to its 7,000 staff.

Company to concentrate on online growth

The company will continue to focus on online growth, as well as a cost-cutting programme and also expanded its ranges to include athleisure, intimate apparel and baby clothes. 

River Island also benefitted from government support over the pandemic, receiving £20m in furlough support and a further £25m in business rates relief.

Chief executive Will Kernan said: “I am pleased to say that, today, our business is in better shape than it was pre-pandemic: our differentiated product ranges and pricing have huge appeal to a wide demographic, there is more buzz around the brand than there has been in many years, we are operating far more efficiently, and our digital offer goes from strength to strength.”