Dr Martens to pay back furlough funds as growth continues despite coronavirus

Dr Martens is to pay back furlough funds to the Government as sales continued to grow in recent months despite the closing of stores in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

The boss of the boot retailer said it was “morally right” to return the funds it claimed after furloughing staff at its UK stores and manufacturing site.

Kenny Wilson, chief executive officer of the brand, said the company made the decision as strong demand for online sales kept the company in growth for the period since the start of April.

He told the PA news agency: “We made sure we would have significant liquidity and could pay everyone, so when we saw positive sales continue we knew we had to repay that.

“So far this financial year, we have maintained growth as e-commerce has offset losses elsewhere.

DR Martens Camden Store 2
Dr Martens’ Camden Store (Dr Martens/PA)

“Our strategy has been digital first and that obviously put us in a strong position to deal with closures.”

The retailer was forced to shut its stores across Europe, the US and Japan in March, while some stores in South Korea, Hong Kong and China continued to trade.

It said “almost all” of its stores have now reopened as lockdown restrictions have eased across the world.

Dr Martens said the impact of the store closures has been “modest” as it was boosted by “strong growth” in its online revenues.

The update came as the company, which was founded in Northamptonshire in 1960, posted a 48% jump in revenues to £672.2 million for the year to March 31.

Meanwhile, underlying earnings surged by 93% to £164.4 million for the year, amid revenue growth across all major markets.

The retailer, which is owned by private equity giant Permira, was also boosted by a raft of store openings, as it launched 16 new stores to bring its estate to 122 owned shops.

Mr Wilson said the business aims to continue growing its store portfolio at a similar rate, despite current pressure on high-street firms.

He said: “We are still hoping to be able to open 15 or 16 stores this year.

“We’ve had a focus on opening in big, important cities across the world, and actually managed to continue some of these since the virus hit, opening a new Paris store just recently.”

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