Australian stationer may boost UK store openings as sales keep accelerating


Australian stationery retailer Smiggle is considering ramping up its UK store opening programme as sales continue to accelerate, defying the gloom hanging over the high street.

Managing director John Cheston told the Press Association that after pausing following last year's referendum result, Smiggle has its foot back on the gas.

He said: "After the vote we took our foot off the gas, we paused. But then like-for-like sales actually went up in the post-Brexit vote period, so we put our foot back on the accelerator.

"We are elated with business in the UK, and our intention was to open 200 stores by 2019, and that's still the aim, but we might increase that.

"It's not a perfect science. Depending on the circumstances, we could open 235 to 240."

Part of the reason for Smiggle's continued success, Mr Cheston explained, is its "affluent" customer base which is more immune from the impact of soaring inflation which is hitting high street sales.

Inflation reached its highest level in nearly four years in May, with retail sales tumbling last month as increased prices "across all sectors" put the breaks on spending.

Smiggle - which bills itself as the "ultimate creator of colourful, fun, fashion-forward stationery" - currently employs 1,000 people in the UK, but this will grow to over 2,000 with 200 stores.

Founded as a single shop in Melbourne in 2003, the firm has since expanded into the UK, New Zealand and Singapore.

Its British arm reported sales of £29 million last year and recorded a £3.8 million pre-tax profit, according to accounts filed at Companies House.

Mr Cheston said the aim is to be raking in £125 million in revenues by 2019.

While Brexit has not impacted sales, the London and Manchester terror attacks have dented footfall, the managing director added.

"What's had the bigger impact is the London and Manchester terror attacks, that's seen lower footfall in shopping centres, for example.

"But Brits have been through it all before with the IRA, so they are again just getting on with their lives," Mr Cheston said.

Smiggle is ultimately owned by Premier Investment, the firm chaired by Australian billionaire Solomon Lew.