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Families will want an ‘affordable’ Christmas this year, The Works says

Hobby retailer The Works has seen record “Back to School” sales as it looks forward to shoppers wanting a more affordable Christmas.

The chain – which sells arts, crafts, toys, books and stationery – said that its total sales for the half year to October 30 increased by 2.1% compared to the same period last year.

This was driven up by in-store sales, while online sales plunged 16.9% compared to last year when the knock-on effects of the pandemic were still impacting retailers.

But online sales were still 50% above pre-Covid levels, The Works said, despite shopping trends normalising this year.

A record “Back to School” season, which includes books and stationery, and strong sales across its outdoor play range during the warm summer months gave the retailer a boost.

More people brought forward their Christmas shopping to September and October last year, The Works claimed, because of fears that stock would be limited by widely reported supply chain disruption.

This means that sales growth in the last six weeks was slightly slower in comparison to last year, coupled with the fact it lost a full shopping day for the Queen’s funeral bank holiday.

Looking ahead to the festive season, the group acknowledged that it is cautious about how consumer spending might be affected by economic factors, like high inflation and rising interest rates.

But it maintained that its value proposition is “more relevant than ever”, because families will be looking for more affordable ways to celebrate Christmas which the retailer expects to benefit from.

Gavin Peck, The Works chief executive, said: “Although it is very difficult to predict what Christmas will look like this year, we believe that the great products and fantastic value we offer will be more important than ever, with families still looking to celebrate Christmas but in a more affordable way.

“The Works has proven itself to be a resilient business and we remain confident in our ability to make progress on our strategy and deliver growth in the medium term, supported by a robust balance sheet.”

The group said it is standing by its previous full-year profit guidance, which estimates adjusted earnings of around £9 million.