Based in south Liverpool, B&M became a ‘go-to’ retailer in the UK during the pandemic with sales up 25% to £4.8bn, profits more than doubling and 7,200 new jobs created. Tony McDonough reports
Liverpool retail giant B&M saw annual sales rocket 25.9% to more than £4.8bn in what chief executive Simon Arora described as an “exceptional” year.
Based in Speke in South Liverpool, B&M operates 1,091 value retail stores in the UK and France under the B&M, Heron Foods and Babou brands. Total number of outlets increased by 41, the majority of which were 25 B&M stores in the UK.
Pre-tax profits for the 12 months to March 27 more than doubled from £252m last year to £525.4m. Of the £4.8bn sales, more than £4bn was taken by the B&M stores with Heron and Babou recording sales of £414m and £309m respectively. The company also created 7,200 new jobs during the year.
While many retailers suffered during the COVID-19 lockdowns, B&M prospered as an essential retail selling both food and non-food goods at low prices. However, Mr Arora warned the outlook for the coming year was “unpredictable” as both the UK and France look to move past the pandemic.
In the annual report he said: “The last year has been an exceptional one. Our results reflect the speed at which we responded to the challenges presented by COVID-19, and the strength of our execution.
“The core B&M UK business, as an essential retailer, traded throughout the year and welcomed a number of new shoppers, with colleagues working tirelessly to maintain on-shelf availability and provide a safe shopping environment. We also made strong progress in France, despite many stores being closed for up to 10 weeks throughout the year.”
Its 681 B&M UK stores are generally large format, with an average sales area of approximately 20,000 sq ft, and are mostly in convenient out-of-town locations with easy access by car. This made them well suited to the needs of customers during the pandemic. B&M intends to open 45 new outlets in the coming year.
Mr Arora also said the company paid colleague recognition bonuses to its staff to thank them for their work during the pandemic. He added: “Looking ahead, there are many uncertainties as society slowly emerges from lockdown and trading patterns are likely to be unpredictable for much of the year.
“Within our UK business, we will be up against the strong comparatives from last year but we remain confident that the B&M customer proposition, with its modern network of predominantly out-of-town stores and value-led variety offer, will prove highly relevant to the needs of shoppers.
“As such, we are well positioned to support the communities in which we trade, retain the loyalty of new customers, and to continue our store roll-out strategy.”
B&M began with a single store in Blackpool in 1976. In 2005 Manchester brothers Simon and Bobby Arora, who ran a successful wholesale business, bought the chain from Private Equity firm Phildrew Ventures. At that time it was still based in Blackpool and its 20 stores generated annual sales of £65m.