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Discount retailer The Works sees sales tumble as an online boom is not enough to make up for lost business at closed stores

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Discount retailer The Works saw revenues tumble by a fifth over the past year as rising online sales did not make up for lost business due to store closures.
The chain, which sells craft supplies, gifts, boo…

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Discount retailer The Works saw revenues tumble by a fifth over the past year as rising online sales did not make up for lost business due to store closures.

The chain, which sells craft supplies, gifts, books, toys and games and stationery, saw a 121 per cent boom in online sales in the year to May. 

But total sales still fell 19 per cent to GBP206.2million in the period, with the drop driven purely by the physical shops, which were closed for more than a third of the time.

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The Works has 527 stores in the UK and Ireland.

The majority have now reopened, except in the Republic of Ireland, where they are set to welcome shoppers again on Monday next week.

But stores have been closed for long periods.

For the 16 of the 53 weeks to the start of May all of The Works' shops were closed due to lockdowns, and more than 75 per cent of its estate was forced to shut for an additional eight weeks.

Chief executive Gavin Peck said: 'Like many retailers, the last 12 months have been incredibly challenging for The Works, which has historically relied mainly on in-store sales. 

'Our business was severely impacted by successive lockdowns and forced closures of our entire store estate.'

Since the stores reopened, they have performed well, although the company remained cautious.

'It is probably too soon to judge the extent to which these encouraging sales reflect strong underlying performance as opposed to pent up demand,' it said.

Meanwhile, online sales have reduced since stores reopened, although they are still 'significantly ahead' of their pre-Covid levels. 

The Works said it wouldn't yet give a profit guidance due to persisting uncertainty but was 'confident' in the future prospects of the business due to its 'strong financial position' and 'appeal of its proposition'. 

'Since we couldn't control store closures we focused on the things we could, keeping tight control of costs, optimising our operations and vastly improving our online offering,' Peck said.

'As a result, our financial position remained strong, online growth exceeded our expectations, and when stores reopened we saw customer demand returning quickly to pre-Covid levels.'