Liverpool value retailer B&M operates more than 600 stores across the UK and saw sales in March rise 22.7% with NHS workers benefiting from discounts worth £2m. Tony McDonough reports
Liverpool-based value retail chain B&M has donated £1m to UK food banks and provided £2m in discounts to NHS workers in the past few weeks as sales surged across the UK.
B&M, which has its head office and main distribution centre in Speke, said it had enjoyed a 22.7% rise in underlying UK sales over the last eight weeks. This was driven by strong food sales early in the lockdown and sales of DIY and gardening products.
The company operates more than 600 B&M stores across the UK and a further 275 Heron Foods convenience stores, predominantly in the North of England. It also has more than 90 Babou general merchandise and grocery stores in France.
Its strong performance in March helped push up sales in the final quartet of its financial year, to March 31, up by 6.6% compared to the same period last year. B&M said customers had been visiting its stores less frequently during the lockdown but their average spend had been higher than usual
However, B&M UK business is experiencing higher than normal operating costs in distribution and at stores resulting from the application of social distancing measures, as well as the payment of premium wage rates during the COVID-19 peak period.
Chief executive Simon Arora said: “We have encountered exceptionally strong demand in our UK business over recent weeks. Customers have been coming to our stores much less frequently through the lockdown but their average spend has been much higher than normal.
“B&M is doing its bit in terms of keeping our customers supplied with the things they need week-in, week out during this period of enormous disruption to the normal operation of the business.
“I am extremely proud of the way our teams have responded to the challenges involved in meeting demand at the same time as doing the right things when it matters, such as providing £2m of discount to NHS workers during the crisis and a £1m food bank donation.
“We have seen a significant bring-forward of demand in some key categories and the remarkably warm spring weather in the UK has been a major factor behind this during recent weeks. We are not expecting this current level of trading to continue as normal shopping patterns resume.”