Recently I highlighted the exceptional £4,900 per sq ft sales densities achieved by Richer Sounds. This time it is the opposite end of the density spectrum.
Want to know more about Focus?
Retail Week Knowledge Bank’s updated profile of DIY retailer Focus reveals the £65 per sq ft densities of a retail operation that has been struggling for years, yet has still managed to survive - just.
When we first looked at Focus in the mid-1980s, its densities were £55 per sq ft, among retailing’s lowest even then. During the 1990s Focus struggled to £70 per sq ft and in the first half of the 2000s reached over £90 per sq ft, before falling back.
For comparison Wickes, long-term sector density leader, is down from £200+ per sq ft in 2004 - when, ironically, it was owned by Focus - to £160 per sq ft of late, with B&Q and Homebase down over the same time frame from £180 per sq ft to £150 per sq ft, and £130 per sq ft to £100 per sq ft respectively. Almost inevitably Focus has made substantial losses over recent years, albeit reduced sharply in 2009/10, while annual sales have fallen below £500m, with its store network reduced from 250 to 180.
The key question, therefore, is how long can Focus continue defying gravity, especially with retailing sentiment at its lowest since the early-1990s recession? It has already been through a CVA, so suppliers and landlords will be wary - and it has recently made stores available, with Asda taking a handful.
Bill Grimsey had notable success turning round a troubled Wickes in the past, but has now stepped back to chairman, while repositioning and downsizing continue, although financing and debt remain underlying problems. Lazards is advising owners Cerberus on their options, with restructuring specialists rumoured to be circling.