Positive Trading Messages From Card Factory, Paperchase And WHSmith

As well as providing a fillip to shareholders and would-be investors as the UK’s largest greeting card retailer, the positive announcement from Card Factory of its trading pattern since the re-opening of non-essential retail has also resulted in positive PR for the sector as a whole.

The UK’s largest specialist card retailer confirmed in an official trading post that its performance since the reopening of stores in  England  and  Wales  from 12 April 2021 “has exceeded its expectations” with the later opening of its stores in Scotland and Northern Ireland not included in the statement.

Above: Card Factory’s trade since reopening has “exceeded expectations”.
Above: Card Factory’s trade since reopening has “exceeded expectations”.

The news was shared widely in the consumer and business media and resulted in an immediate surge in the retailer’s share price.

Card Factory has also confirmed that its has “agreed headline terms for refinancing of the Group with its current syndicate of commercial lending banks”. As part of this the company’s banking syndicate has extended waivers in respect of anticipated covenant breaches to 31 May 2021, taking account of the retailer’s cash flow projections, subject to certain conditions. Card Factory is to release its preliminary results for the 12 months to 31 January 2021, on 8 June 2021.  This is delayed from the previously announced date, due to “logistical challenges in concluding the year end audit in compliance with government guidelines as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic”.

Meanwhile, Paperchase is also sending out reassuring messages about its trading patterns since the majority of its stores reopened, under its new ownership.

Above: Paperchase’s store in St Pancras station.
Above: Paperchase’s store in St Pancras station.

“I’m really pleased to say that the sun has been shining on us and we’re currently trading above plan,” confirmed Sarah House, Paperchase’s head of brand.

“Our colleagues have worked incredibly hard to welcome customers back to our stores,” she added.

Penny Teale has recently been appointed trading director of Paperchase, following the departure of Frances Burkle who decided to leave the business a few months ago. Penny has been in the role on an interim basis, but has now joined permanently.

“Penny brings a wealth of retail expertise and ideas with her from some great high street names,” said Sarah.

Above: Penny Teale experience spans a number of leading retail names, from WHS to Argos.
Above: Penny Teale experience spans a number of leading retail names, from WHS to Argos.

As part of her remit, Penny is heading up the buying, which is now split into two teams – one headed up by Siobhan Freel who is responsible for stationery, collections and wholesale and the other looked after by Carlo Marinelli which covers cards, wrap and gifts.

Making it a trio of assuring news, WHSmith hit the headlines a few days ago with its interim results and plans to expand it WHS Travel side.

“Encouraging performance despite continued impact from Covid-19 with improving trends,” was the topline message from the varietal retail group on its performance for the six months to the end of February.

Above: WHSmith’s High Street stores have performed well.
Above: WHSmith’s High Street stores have performed well.

The results showed a profitable performance from its High Street stores (that have been able to trade during the lockdowns), with an increase in average transaction value (ATV), while a “record performance” from funkypigeon.com was also highlighted.

“In a difficult retail environment, our High Street business has generated a resilient performance. At the same time, we are pleased that our online businesses, including funkypigeon.com, have delivered a record performance,” stated Carl Cowling, group chief executive. “We have positioned the group well. We are financially strong as a result of the actions we have taken, and the new financing arrangements also announced today will put us in an even stronger position to capitalise on the growth of our key markets and take advantage of the many exciting opportunities ahead.”

An additional 100 WHSmith Travel stores are on the slate to open over the next three years, but 60+ of these will be in the States with the remainder set to open across the UK, Australia and the rest of Europe.

Above: An addition 100 WHSmith Travel stores are to open over the next few years.
Above: An addition 100 WHSmith Travel stores are to open over the next few years.

WHSmith group reported a pre-tax loss of £38 million for the half-year to February, a drop from £63 million profit in the same period last year.

However, its high street retail business only reported a 14% decline in revenues to £270 million.

The retailer has secured £325 million in financing to fund its growth plan.

Top: Card Factory is finalising its refinancing.

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