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Sales plunge at Clinton Cards

Half year profits have plunged 70 per cent at Clinton Cards amidst warnings that sales call fall further.

Clinton said the tough retail environment will continue to hit trade in 2011 and it expects a "low single digit percentage decline" in sales in the second half of the financial year.

Clinton, which employs 8,500 staff, hopes a new website, redesigned stores and key trading periods such as mother's and father's day will offer some support to the business.

The warning came as the retailer, which also owns the Birthdays brand, reported pre-tax profits of £11.7 million in the 26 weeks to January 30, compared to £19.9 million the previous year.

Last year, the company unveiled plans for an overhaul of its stores and website in a bid to modernise the brand after a difficult year for trading.

The company will redesign four stores this year with a new layout, fixturing, colour scheme and directional signage. The new website will offer customers a personalised card service and will be accessible on smartphones.

Like-for-like sales in the first half were down 2.7% in the 700-strong Clinton Cards estate. The Birthdays brand in the UK, which includes 156 stores, turned in a better performance, with like-for-like sales declining 0.4%. But the Irish branch of the Birthdays business was liquidated after turning in full year losses in excess of £1 million.

Shares in Clinton Cards dropped more than 7% following the results.

Clinton chairman Don Lewin expects tough trading to continue. Despite an “encouraging start” to Mother’s Day card sales it warned that group like-for-likes are likely to suffer from a low single digit percentage fall in its second half.
Lewin said: “We are mindful of the challenging economical retail conditions we are operating in and anticipate consumer sentiment to remain cautious and trading to remain difficult for the remainder of 2011.”


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