Premier Retail expects a strong start to the first half of fiscal 2021, despite not qualifying for another round of JobKeeper subsidies.

The Premier Investments retail division expects earnings to be up between 75% to 85% for a total of $221 million to $233 million.

Premier Retail incurred significant incremental costs by continuing to pay over 1200 staff after the end of its eligible wage subsidies from October, 2020.

Premier Investments chairman Solomon Lew said it had been a challenging time for retailers globally.

“The challenges posed by COVID-19 are the greatest set of risks I have ever seen in more than six decades in retail. During the first half we have had rolling lockdowns and shutdowns in multiple countries all at a moment’s notice.”

Lew praised the team for delivering a record result for the first half.

“I have always said the numbers don’t lie, and these numbers prove that the nearly 10,000 strong Premier Retail team is simply the best.”

The strong earnings outlook was driven by online sales and gross margin growth, alongside strict cost controls led by landlord rent abatements.

Premier Retail clocked $146.2 million in online sales for the 24 weeks ended January 9, up 60% on the same period last year.

Total global sales were $716.9 million, up 5% on the same period last year.

Premier Retail’s total global like-for-like were up 18.0% with Australia even stronger up 26.2% on the same period last year.

Total gross profit growth was also ahead of last year, with strong sales and growth margin growth in Peter Alexander, Just Jeans and Jay Jays both in Australia and New Zealand.

At different times during the half, it was government mandated that Premier Retail temporarily close stores in Melbourne, Regional Victoria, Auckland, Adelaide, Sydney’s Northern Beaches and Brisbane.

In addition, in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and most recently Malaysia, Premier Retail stores are currently closed due to government directions.

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