Theo Paphitis’s high street stationery chain Ryman tumbled to an earnings loss for the first time in 25 years over the past year as the Dragon’s Den star hailed wider progress across his retail operation.
Theo Paphitis Retail Group, which also includes the Robert Dyas and Boux Avenue brands, grew its online presence but was heavily impacted by lockdown restrictions throughout the year to March 31.
The group’s Ryman chain tumbled to an earnings loss of £8.5 million for the year, compared with a £7.8 million profit in the previous year, as it was impacted by weaker student, business and city centre trade.
But the stationery brand said it pushed forward on the path to profitability in 2022 following the easing of restrictions last year.
Meanwhile, lingerie brand Boux Avenue made “significant progress” following its strategic review in 2019 and reduced its losses on the back of 9.1% sales growth.
It said it was boosted by 129.7% growth in online sales and had seen its performance “further improve” during the current year.
Elsewhere, hardware retailer Robert Dyas also reported sales growth for the year on the back of a 88% jump in online trading.
Mr Paphitis said: “We are pleased with the performance and progress in the financial year ended March 2021 and inevitably the pandemic has affected our brands in different ways, with Boux Avenue and Robert Dyas making excellent progress in this last year.
“The results demonstrate the hard work and dedication of our colleagues across the group, and how the stores and online arms have worked together, building on our strategy and crucial investment prior to and during the pandemic.”
In the update, the retail group also hailed “strong” trading over the latest Christmas period, with sales for the six weeks to December 24 up 15.6% against the same period in 2019.
It said this was driven by an 87.5% rise in online sales as store revenues dipped by 6.3%.
The entrepreneur said the fall in store sales highlighted the current pressure facing the high street and called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to address this by overhauling business rates.
“The strength of our e-commerce trading masks the much more challenging store environment, in particular in city centres and prime locations, where business rates are unfairly high,” Mr Paphitis said.
“It is therefore a major disappointment that this has failed to be structurally addressed by the Chancellor.
“The focus for 2022 is building on the positive, innovation, and our colleague development, in order to satisfy our customers.
“We, like so many in this sector, have responded well when we’ve had everything, including the kitchen sink thrown at us, and will continue to dig deep to keep physical retail alive, as a key function of communities, but we cannot do this on our own.”