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Fortnum & Mason Christmas sales power rebound after first loss in 12 years

·2-min read
A Fortnum & Mason hamper  (Fortnum & Mason)
A Fortnum & Mason hamper (Fortnum & Mason)

Sales of pistachio & clotted cream biscuits and sparkling tea over Christmas have helped the Queen’s grocer Fortnum & Mason bounce back from its first annual loss in 12 years.

The upmarket food shop, which has a close association with the royals, flagged the biscuits and tea as standout sellers over the festive period. Demand saw sales rise 21% in the five weeks to 26 December compared to a year earlier.

The bumper performance came after a lockdown-induced slump. Accounts filed today show the business lost £2.7 million in the 12 months to July 2021 as turnover dropped 6% to £132 million. It marks the company’s first annual pre-tax loss since 2009.

Fortnums blamed the pandemic, which forced it to shut its iconic Piccadilly store.

Fortnum & Mason’s Piccadilly shop (PA)
Fortnum & Mason’s Piccadilly shop (PA)

CEO Tom Athron said:”After the inevitable challenges of a year dominated by COVID, we are emerging stronger and more resilient than we were before.

“We now have a domestic business that has almost doubled in size over the pandemic. Christmas was exceptionally strong as customers put us at the heart of their plans to properly celebrate.”

Fortnums invested heavily in digital during the pandemic to help offset store closures. Online grew from a third of sales in 2020 to 55% in 2021. Online sales grew by 65% in December as work from home orders took effect.

Chair Kate Hobhouse said: “2021 has been a testing year, but throughout our focus has been on the health and wellbeing of our people, and on continuing to deliver the very best products and experiences for our customers.

“We are particularly grateful for the hard work and determination of all of our people during these difficult and complex times.

“While we are still in the early stages of recovery, we are confident that our digital growth, coupled with a strong domestic sales performance underpins a long and sustainable future ahead.”

Fortnum & Mason was founded in London in 1707 after Queen Anne gave her footman William Fortnum permission to sell on discarded candles from St James’s Palace. The retailer has enjoyed a close relationship with the royal family ever since and currently hold two warrants from Her Majesty The Queen and HRH The Prince of Wales.

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