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Dunelm lifts profit outlook and names outgoing Whitbread boss as its new chair

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Home furnishings retailer Dunelm has named outgoing Whitbread boss Alison Brittain as its new chair as the group said annual profits were set to nudge above forecasts.

Ms Brittain will join the chain’s board on September 7 as independent non-executive director and chair designate, ahead of taking over from current chair Andy Harrison before his nine-year term ends in September next year.

She has led Premier Inn owner Whitbread as chief executive since 2015, overseeing its sale of the Costa Coffee business in 2019.

She recently announced plans to retire from the role and is expected to leave the business in early 2023.

Alison Brittain
Alison Brittain

Alison Brittain has led Whitbread since 2015 (Nick Ansell/PA)

Details of her appointment came as the group revealed sales fell less than feared in its final quarter to June 25, down 6% at £358 million, as it came up against tough comparisons from a year earlier when stores had just reopened after Covid restrictions lifted.

This means sales lifted 16% overall in the full year to £1.6 billion, which puts it on track to beat slightly market expectations for pre-tax profits of £207 million – from £158 million the previous year.

Shares in the group rose 4% on Thursday.

The firm said trading in July had so far got off to a “solid” start, though the group said it was “not immune to the impacts of inflationary pressures on the consumer”.

There are signs of consumer belt-tightening in the wider retail sector, in particular with so-called big ticket items – with revealing earlier this week it was cutting costs and “considering options” to bolster its balance sheet.

Chief executive Nick Wilkinson said: “The macro outlook remains uncertain and we cannot predict exactly how consumers will respond to the increasing pressures on their finances.

“We are currently seeing customers adapt to this environment in their own ways, utilising the breadth of our offer and price points across homewares. Value and choice has always been at the very core of Dunelm, and we are intensely focused on continuing to strengthen this for our customers.”

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