Lower consumer confidence is ‘new norm’, says The Works chief

The boss of value retailer The Works has warned the high street will remain “subdued” as lower confidence among shoppers becomes “the new norm”.

It comes as like-for-like sales growth at the chain slowed to 3% in the 52 weeks ending April 28, down from last year’s 4.7%.

The company’s chief executive Kevin Keaney said this was due to a slowdown in the final quarter, reflecting greater uncertainty among British consumers.

Speaking to PA, Mr Keaney said consumer confidence is “particularly low at the moment” as the unresolved issue of Brexit weighs on the UK.

“Like all businesses, what we crave is a bit of certainty,” he said.

“The reality is I don’t think we’re going to get that. We’re treating low consumer confidence as the new norm.”

He hailed the year-end results from The Works, which are the first annual update since it joined the London Stock Exchange last year.

Revenue was up 13.2% to £217.5 million during the period as 50 new stores were added to the estate.

The company has since surpassed the 500-store milestone.

Profit before tax declined 9.6% to £2.3 million but when adjusted for the impact of the company’s debut on the stock market, profits more than doubled to £6.7 million.

Online sales were higher and drove half a million customers to visit stores for click and collect purchases, the company said.

Although it is expected shoppers will keep a close hold on their purse strings in the near future, analysts said there were still opportunities for growth.

Retail analyst Jonathan Pritchard, of Peel Hunt, said: “Online growth is strong, store openings are being made easier by the favourable property market, and the product range continues to evolve – balloons and the new Frozen film will help like-for-like sales.”

Shares in Theworks.co.uk were up 6.6% at lunchtime on Wednesday.