Wilkinson has made a dramatic recovery from a trading downturn that halved last year's profits....
Wilkinson has made a dramatic recovery from a trading downturn that halved last year's profits.

Figures obtained by Retail Week show the hardware and variety retailer's bottom line is back on track, with pre-tax profits jumping 88 per cent to£48.4 million for the year to February 2, compared with£25.7 million the previous year. Sales increased 9.7 per cent to£1.3 billion.

'While trading conditions remained challenging throughout 2006, we put our focus clearly on the customer and paid special attention to maintaining an offer that we felt was unique on the high street,' said a spokeswoman.

'This included the introduction of a convenience food range, requested by our customers,' she added.

Despite the turnaround, the group was affected by increased operating costs in areas such as diesel, gas, electricity and rent. As a result, its pre-tax profit was still below 2005's£54.3 million.

Wilkinson's product categories include DIY, pet care, health and beauty, stationery and toys. It operates 281 stores, 12 of which were opened in the past year.

The privately owned retailer has shaken up its management team over the past year with the appointment of a new chief executive and two non-executive directors. Chief executive Stuart Mitchell, previously managing director of Sainsbury's supermarkets, joined in September and completed a strategic review of the business. He took the reins from outgoing chief executive Gordon Brown in February.

Virgin cosmetics chairman John Jackson and James Browning, group managing director of mobile phone distributor Dextra Solutions, joined as non-executive directors.

Finance director Paul Testo plans to retire in June 2008.

Wilkinson is owned by the eponymous family that founded the business in 1930.

The tough environment for general merchandise retailers was reflected in a trading statement issued by Woolworths earlier this month. It reported a like-for-like sales slip of 0.6 per cent for the 17 weeks to June 2.