Group to speed up global expansion

Luxury kitchen and furnishings group Smallbone revealed it will accelerate its successful global roll-out after reporting buoyant interims.

The group, which comprises the eponymous kitchen, bedroom and bathroom chain, as well as upmarket furniture company Mark Wilkinson and US flooring supplier Paris Ceramics, reported turnover jumped 16 per cent to£26.6 million in the six months to June 30.

Pre-tax profits totalled£206,000 against a£191,000 loss for the same period the previous year. Operating profit shot up by 1,615 per cent to£517,000.

Executive chairman and chief executive Charlie Smallbone (pictured) said the figures show the investment made in the company since its float in 2004 has “gone to plan”.

Gross margin improvement to 43.9 per cent, up from 42.3 per cent last year, was driven by “better product efficiencies and improved purchasing power”.

Smallbone added that like-for-like growth at the retailer, where the average transaction is£40,000, was up double digits during the period.

The retailer will ramp up its expansion plans in both the UK and US. It wants to up its store numbers from 34 across the group to 32 in the UK and a further 16 in the US by 2009.

The Smallbone brand, which has 11 showrooms in the UK, reported UK operating profits shot up 65 per cent. It operates two stores in the US and will open a Smallbone showroom in Chicago in April. In the UK, it will open a store at Beaconsfield in early 2008 and plans to open another in Essex this year.

Charlie Smallbone said he was confident about the upmarket group’s prospects in the US, despite the country’s economic turmoil and the downturn in the housing market. Smallbone’s New York flagship store took US$5 million (£7.4 million) new orders in its first year.

Operating profits at Mark Wilkinson brand, which has 10 stores in the UK, soared nearly 50 per cent during the period. The retailer wants to open 15 Mark Wilkinson stores by the end of 2009 and has set targets for more.