Wilkinson posts bumper profits - and dividends

Wilkinson, one of the UK's biggest and most secretive privately owned retailers, has disclosed a 13.3 per cent sales increase in the year to January 30, bringing turnover to£1.04 billion.

The variety store group generated pre-tax profits of£56.5 million - up 26.4 per cent - in a year during which customer numbers grew and transaction numbers reached 178 million.

Dividends, including non-equity shares, rose from£5.8 million to£37.5 million. In his accompanying statement, chairman Tony Wilkinson said: 'This level of payment is exceptional and reflects the previous prudent management of funds to facilitate expansion.'

Retail Knowledge Bank research director Robert Clark said the retailer has scope for considerable further growth and could become a threat to other homewares chains, including Woolworths.

He said: 'It is a very well-focused outfit. Given that it offers such good prices, it should be able to expand considerably into a wider area outside its traditional northern base.

Because it is a private company, it will likely continue at a steady rate and finance its growth from its cashflow.'

Despite the retailer's performance, Wilkinson, who is due to retire in February and hand over his role to non-executive director Karin Swann, remained modest. 'Satisfaction with the results for our trading year that ended on January 30 may be considered an understatement by some. We live in an age, however, when overemphasis has become a bad habit,' he said in his report.

Wilkinson was unavailable for comment.