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Royal grocer Fortnum & Mason toasts higher sales as tea demand jumps

By Henry Saker-Clark, PA City Reporter

British demand for tea and biscuits has driven royal grocer Fortnum & Mason to its seventh consecutive year of double figure growth.

Fortnum & Mason shrugged off the malaise impacting UK high street retailers to grow like-for-like sales by 10% as total group sales jumped 12% to £138 million in the year to July 14.

The retailer said UK domestic customers came to its shops and concessions in droves as sales of loose-leaf tea and its biscuit selections both surged higher.

The luxury retailer said it has also been boosted by recent product innovations such as its chocolate caviar and sparkling tea.

It added that the proportion of sales by domestic British customers increased to around 60%, as it continued to become less reliant on tourist sales.

The company reported a 6% jump in sales at its flagship Piccadilly store while online sales grew by 13%.

Ewan Venters, chief executive of the retailer, said he saw more opportunities for growing the company’s travel business as it reported a 15% increase in sales from its St Pancras International store.

Ewan Mason, chief executive of Fortnum and Mason (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Meanwhile, profits at the company jumped 26% higher, buoyed by its continued growth overseas.

Fortnum’s sales jumped in Asia as it benefited from 15% growth in Hong Kong and 28% growth in Japan.

Last week, the company opened its first standalone store in Asia in Hong Kong. Mr Venters said the opening had “gone as well as I’d hoped” despite political turmoil embroiling the country since the start of 2019.

Mr Venters added: “The number of visitors coming into Hong Kong has dropped, without question, but when I was there for the opening last week, there were still huge numbers coming in.

“We are continuing to trade as we would normally but we are being respectful of what is going on in the country – there was no launch party for example as it just wouldn’t have felt right.”

Kate Hobhouse, chairman of Fortnum’s, said: “We are a traditional British business with a truly global outlook, and I am proud that people’s appetite for our brand is increasing around the world.

“We continue to serve our customers both at home and abroad, in person and across our digital platforms, and I am excited to see how the business can build on its recent success in the year ahead.”