Fenwick is gearing up to relaunch its group ecommerce site, more than two years after it pressed pause on online trading.
The business shut down the transactional arm of its website in July 2014 as part of a restructure. It originally intended to relaunch it in early 2015 and a spokesman confirmed it is now scheduled for next year.
Drapers understands the complexity of the 11-strong store chain’s buying structure may have contributed to the delay. Each Fenwick store has its own, separate buying strategy.
Company secretary Jill Anders confirmed the imminent relaunch in documents filed at Companies House this weekend. “The group website will launch transactional capability shortly,” she wrote.
The documents also revealed that Fenwick’s gross sales rose 1.2% to £431.7m for the year to 29 January, compared with the previous year. Gross profit margins slipped by 0.1%.
Pre-tax profit increased 23.4% to £44.2m and group profit for the period was up 25.7% to £35.7m year on year.
The documents presented a sobering view of the UK’s retail industry throughout last year, describing the environment as “extremely challenging”.
Anders wrote: “Digitally empowered consumers are driving major structural change in the sector while excess retail capacity is resulting in frequent discounting, price deflation and margin erosion.
“Total discretionary spend is also reducing and within this, digital and service based experiences are taking an increasing share of disposable income. The group was therefore encouraging by a small increase in like-for-like sales over the previous year, particularly in its provincial locations.”
Anders said the group remained “cautious about UK retail prospects”, adding that the industry faces significant cost pressures from the national living wage and business rates adjustments in London.
However, Anders confirmed that the board of directors is continuing to identify new retail locations and that investments will be maintained in the group’s digital infrastructure.
Last month, the group reopened Colchester department store William & Griffin as Fenwick following a £35m refurbishment, which expanded floorspace by 50% to 120,000 sq ft over a two-and-a-half year programme.
Fenwick is also set to open its first new store in 14 years in 2017 at the new £240m Lexicon Bracknell retail and leisure destination. The store will replace the existing Fenwick-owned unit in the town, the Bentalls store that was part of the acquisition of that family-owned group in 2001.
Drapers has contacted Fenwick for comment.