Beaverbrooks posted a record operating profit of £17.2 million for the year ending February 29 from sales totalling £143 million.
A month after the end of its financial year, every one of its 70 stores and its e-commerce business were closed as the country was forced into a hard lockdown by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Turnover was zero,” Beaverbrooks managing director Anna Blackburn said.
Its online store was closed at the same time as its stores after Beaverbrooks realised that the working environment was not COVID-secure, but returned within two weeks, and started notching record sales that continued even after its stores reopened.
Ms Blackburn would not disclose what percentage of sales now come from e-commerce, but it has to be significant because, while turnover from brick-and-mortar sales is still lower than this time last year, the company’s overall revenue in recent weeks has been up year-on-year.
In a wide-ranging interview with Ms Blackburn and Beaverbrooks chairman Mark Adlestone OBE, the leaders describe how 2019, which was the jeweller’s centenary year, generated the profits and cash that would see it through the crisis.
Cash flow was also helped by postponing the completion of a deal to buy three Fraser Hart stores — all Rolex accounts — until the future was more certain. The deal will go ahead, Ms Blackburn confirmed, but will now be for two stores in Milton Keynes and Croydon, South London.
Beaverbrooks put the majority of its 950 employees on furlough, but topped up salaries in full through April and May and most are now back at work.
Mr Adlestone is grateful for the government support, which included deferring VAT payments and pushing landlords to support their tenants. “The Treasury acted quickly and more generously than I would have expected. It was hugely helpful,” he said.