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Royal warrant holder Smythson posts £7m loss as it shuts string of stores

Smythson
Three Smythson stores have shut in the UK and another on New York's Madison Avenue

Smythson, the leather goods maker which holds a Royal Warrant, has suffered a £7m loss as it shut a string of shops in an effort to cut costs.

The company, whose clients have also included Winston Churchill and the Hollywood star Grace Kelly, warned that inflation, high interest rates and the cost of living crisis have created uncertainty in the luxury goods market.

Accounts filed by the company showed sales rose by £3m to £23.7m over the year to April 2, 2023, while pre-tax losses narrowed slightly to £7.3m from £8.5m a year earlier.

Smythson said it was forced to shut four stores over the period; on New York’s Madison Avenue, the Royal Exchange in London, Terminal 2 in Heathrow Airport and Bicester Village in Oxfordshire. It has since closed another London store in Westbourne Grove, and is planning to move its New Bond Street store to a new site after previously relocating in 2017.

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Paolo Porta, chief executive at Smythson, said in the accounts: “Demand in the luxury retail sector remains uncertain, subject to global and local economic conditions resulting from the aftermath of the Covid pandemic, ongoing impact from Ukrainian war and recent increases in interest rates and the cost of living.

“Recovery post-Covid continued through the year, with most retail stores getting back to pre-Covid numbers. Our travel locations, while much improved, continued to feel the impact of reduced passengers and less international travel in the first half of the year.”

Founded in 1887 by Frank Smythson, the company started out with a single store on London’s New Bond Street. It began producing stationery, winning a commission to create the stationery for Queen Victoria’s residences, before expanding into handbags in the 1900s.

Smythson’s royal connections were solidified in the 1960s, when it was granted its first Royal Warrant by Queen Elizabeth II. It went on to receive warrants from King Charles, when he was the Prince of Wales, and the late Queen Mother, in the 1980s, and from the former Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip.

The company was bought by Tivoli, one of Italy’s biggest handbag manufacturers, in 2009, in a deal reportedly worth around £18m.

Samantha Cameron, wife of the Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron, worked for Smythson from 1997 until 2010, starting as a window dresser before working her way up to creative director. She worked with the company as a consultant in the years that followed when her husband became prime minister.

Smythson was approached for comment.