Albermarle & Bond to focus on retail at Christmas

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Retailer increases new stock with focus on charms, silver and watches.

Pawnbroker Albermarle & Bond has said that it will focus on the retail arm of its business this Christmas period.

Albermarle & Bond chairman Greville Nicholls said: “The gold jewellery market remains very challenging, and we are focused on our retail offer as we enter the key Christmas retail trading period.”

The group, which operates under Albermarle & Bond and Herbert Brown fascias, has bought extra new stock, as opposed to second-hand stock, with a focus on silver, charms and branded watches. The group has increased stocks of new jewellery and watches at both its retail formats but said that there will be a larger proportion of new stock at its Herbert Brown stores.

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Albermarle & Bond chief executive Barry Stevenson told Professional Jeweller: “The six weeks in the run up to Christmas are a disproportionate amount of retail sales. Retail sales represent 12 percent of our gross profits for the full year and well over 25 percent of that is done in November and December.”

The company will also use promotions such as leaflet drops and customer catalogues to drive retail traffic into stores. Stevenson added: “The jewellery we sell is our shop window and once we get them in it makes it easier for them to come back later and use our other services.”

Albermarle & Bond recently became the first pawnbroker to join the British Retail Consortium, a move that it believes will help to be perceived as a retailers rather than a money lender.

Nicholls said: “This is a significant milestone for what is becoming an increasingly mainstream business on the UK high street, and reflects the significant progress made by the team in communicating the value, transparency and range of our products and services. e expect to make further progress as we continue to review and expand our product offering.”

Despite this shift towards retail, Nicholls said at the group’s AGM that pawnbroking is still the business’s key driver.

He said: “Pawnbroking, our core business and largest profit contributor, has continued to perform well, achieving further double-digit like-for-like growth year on year in the pledge book. The increase has primarily been driven by higher average loan sizes as the group has sought to offer customers the most competitive deals.”

Nicholls added that the business is “trading in line with management expectations”. He said that demand for small flexible loans at competitive rates has continued to be strong in the first four months of the group’s current financial year and that the gold buying division continuing to show strong year-on-year growth.

The chain said that other financial services are trading in line with expectations and Albermarle & Bond’s store expansion programme for 2011 is “well underway” and is set to achieve its target of opening 25 new stores this financial year.

Nicholls said: “Since the start of the new financial year we have opened seven stores taking the total to 139, with a further nine scheduled to open by 31 December 2010. The new stores continue to trade ahead of internal expectations. Performance has been driven by a positive start to the pledge book and gold buying, helping to establish new customer bases in new locations.”

The group has also opened up eight pop-up shops, taking the total to 27.

 

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